Late Breaking News
VA, Paralympic Partnership Successful but Not Yet Available Everywhere Cont.
- Categorized in: Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), November 2011, Rehabilitation
According to USOC’s chief of U.S. Paralympics, Charles Huebner, VA and USOC are implementing a training and technical-assistance model to reach areas that need, but do not currently have, an adaptive-sports program.
“If there’s a veteran returning to Grinnell, Iowa, and the entity in Grinnell is a YMCA, we can come in cost-efficiently and provide training to the staff at that YMCA about how to provide sport programming for a person with a physical disability,” Huebner said. “That’s what makes this program so incredibly efficient and effective.”
Coordinating Time and Space
The two large organizations also can leverage their high name recognition when setting up programs in towns and cities. According to Huebner, a recent summit in Iowa saw 75 different organizations come together, largely because it was a VA/USOC-led initiative. “It created excitement. It created that focus,” he said.
In order to trade on that leverage, USOC needs regional directors in areas helping to coordinate with other agencies for time and space. “For example, there are 25 different parks and recreation agencies in Chicago, all fighting for the same piece of pie,” Huebner said. “Some of those organizations are a three-person shop with a $300,000 [budget]. Some are $8 million with a staff of 120. To get those entities to work together is difficult. Their focus is usually on what their mission is, and that mission is to not go out and work with 24 other agencies in a region.”
“The message that we have developed and shared is that, if we can work together, we can grow that pie,” Huebner said. “We can collaborate to make efficiencies.”
Currently USOC has only one full-time staff person working in Chicago to help coordinate those 25 different agencies to provide programs for veterans. “We see a great need for additional coordinators,’ he said.
Despite being short of personnel and resources, the partnership has distributed more than 70 grants totaling $5.9 million in the last year, with the grant organizations contributing more than $40 million in private resources and programmatic support. More than 200 Paralympic Sports Clubs or community sports organizations are providing programs for veterans and servicemembers, and more than 14,000 veterans with disabilities have participated in programs through the partnership since its inception.
This winter will see the first VA/USOC Paralympic Adaptive Sport Training Conference held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with more than 50 VA therapeutic recreation coordinators attending.