Recreation for the Whole Military Family By Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership April marks the Month of the Military Child, a time when we honor the dedication displayed by children of military families both at home and abroad. This month also serves as an excellent reminder for those of us in the veteran-serving community to always ensure our programs and initiatives are open to military children. One of the best ways that local veteran-serving organizations can honor military children is by hosting inclusive programs, events and activities for the whole family, particularly those that center on recreation and outdoor activities. Our 2018 Annual Survey found that recreation, networking and volunteerism are the three most sought-after opportunities among veterans, family members and caregivers throughout the nation. Our team at America’s Warrior Partnership conducts this survey every year to evaluate how communities can improve the services they offer to veterans, and these types of programs regularly rank high among veterans’ most sought-after resources. These may seem like nonessential services, but a significant number of veteran families are looking for these types of programs. In fact, 20 percent of the warriors we surveyed in 2018 were ONLY looking for either recreational activities, connections with other military families or volunteer opportunities – they did not need assistance with housing, education or other critical areas. Most importantly, a robust program of community events built around recreation, networking and volunteerism can have a very positive impact on veterans and their families. Our 2018 Annual Survey found that veterans, family members and caregivers who regularly participate in community events are 13 percent more hopeful on average than those who do not. The benefits of providing recreational opportunities to veterans and their children are clear, and there are a wide range of resources available to help individuals and veteran-serving organizations find quality programs. A great place for community groups, or veteran families themselves, to start is the Four Star Alliance, which is a membership organization of service providers that offer adaptive sports, therapeutic recreation and wellness programs to veterans and their families. 22
HOMELAND / April 2019
There are tens of thousands of organizations spread throughout the country that specialize in different types of outdoor programs, so the search for a veteran-friendly program can be challenging without a little guidance. The Four Star Alliance provides that guidance by vetting prequalified organizations that are staffed with professionals who understand the unique situations and culture of veteran families. Every Four Star Alliance program has passed a rigorous vetting process that considers fiscal responsibility, use of effective practices and the level of satisfaction among those they serve. The seal of approval provided by a reliable vetting process can help eliminate the uncertainty that veterans may face when looking for an appropriate recreational program, especially when that decision involves their children. The other benefit of tapping into such a specialized membership organization is that it can help community groups and veterans find programs that otherwise may not be available locally. The Four Star Alliance currently counts more than three dozen service providers among its members, all based in different parts of the country with a diverse offering of recreation-based programs ranging from horticulture and hiking to team sports. A list of all Four Star Alliance members and their contact information is available at FourStarAlliance.org for those who are interested in exploring whether a recreational program may be right for their family. Our military children are asked to bear a difficult burden as their parents serve their country. The least we can do is give them an opportunity to relax, have fun and develop loving relationships with their families. About the Author Jim Lorraine is President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership, a national nonprofit that helps veteranserving organizations connect with veterans, military members and families in need. Learn more about the organization at www.AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.
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