In 2014, a colleague of mine reached out to me. Dr. Rory Cooper, the director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), is someone I have worked with over the years, beginning with my time as the Wounded Warrior Regiment Sergeant Major.
Dr. Cooper’s organization at the University of Pittsburgh has been a major component to the research and development of new technologies that help make life better for people with disabilities. Adaptive devices, robotic equipment, and high-tech therapies have helped countless people suffering from disabilities.
But many of Dr. Cooper’s beneficiaries are veterans. As a disabled U.S. Army veteran, he works closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop these technologies for veterans. When he expressed his need for a new lathe machine, I knew that DVNF could help.
The lathe is a piece of equipment that is a cornerstone in engineering. Not only would this device support that research and development of new technologies, but it would also be used to train veterans interested in a career in high-demand area of manufacturing. We raised the $50,000 for the new machine and got a great idea as well.
And that is where our special initiatives started.
In 2015, we raised an additional $50,000 for Patriot PAWS, an organization that trains service dogs for disabled veterans. We did this because we wanted to make sure that the growing number of veterans seeking out this emerging support system could be accommodated.
And then we raised another $50,000 for Ride 2 Recovery to help with the purchase of new adaptive cycling equipment, to aid veterans seeking out a physical challenge that has a positive mental impact on them.
And finally, we raised $20,000 for Combat Marine Outdoors, an organization that gives severely wounded veterans an outdoor adventure with their fellow veterans while hunting and fishing. This helps them see the simplicity of nature, and to face a challenge with others who understand the pain they have experienced, both physically and psychologically. These funds will help cover the travel costs for many veterans wanting to have such an experience.
These special initiatives are partnerships with fellow veterans’ service organizations, but they have a very specific purpose in mind – giving veterans more opportunity, more support, and more growth.
Thanks to the added support of generous donors, we have been able to change a lot of lives, and in 2016, we hope to keep building upon that!
Joseph VanFonda (USMC SgtMaj Ret.)
Tags: Combat Marine Outdoors, Disabled Veterans National Foundation, Mental Health, Military, Patriot PAWS, PTSD, Ride 2 Recovery, Service Dogs, Suicide Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury, Veterans, Wounded Warriors