The Vail Veterans Program (VP) was inspired by a chance meeting in 2004 between Major Dave and Cheryl Jensen, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the program. Cheryl wanted to treat returning Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed with an Adaptive Ski Event at Vail but struggled to find the people to attend. “I brought four from Fort Carson and recruited six more for what was supposed to be one time event.”
Eight years later, the VVP has assisted over 1,000 US military personnel and their families who have been severely injured while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and to the troops that support those efforts. Through skiing, snowboarding and outdoor summer recreational activities the Program helps to build confidence and give hope for the future.
What are some current projects?
In January, we focus on a smaller family event for people with multiple amputations or spinal cord injuries. Our event allows the newly injured to heal in a new and challenging environment with their families. Our March event is our traditional event, where we host mainly couples or a Wounded Warrior with their non-medical attendant, family or a friend. At both winter programs, we take the newly injured and get them on snow, either skiing or snow-boarding, while teaching them the new adaptive techniques and equipment they need to be successful. In the summer, our event focuses on fly-fishing, horse-back riding, and river rafting.
Of all your accomplishments, of which are you most proud?
When I look over the last ten years, besides the birth of three sons, I am most proud of the legacy we created in the Vail Veterans Program. The first year, we invited a young Army Staff Sergeant who was missing both legs above the knees and wanted to snowboard. We’d never seen anyone do it before and were hoping he’d change his mind and use a mono-ski, but we decided to give it a try. With total amazement, he did it and he changed all of our lives in the process.
To learn more and get involved visit: http://www.vailveteransprogram.com/