Submitted by Dick Milewski, Woburn Sportsmen’s Association
Leah Sullivan, a Certified Recreational Therapist at the Bedford VA, started an archery program for residents in collaboration with Woburn Sportsmen’s Association. She was introduced to WSA at the first Vets Day event the Club sponsored in 2012. She saw how well the Vets enjoyed the Club and the demonstrations that were put on, as well as the having the Vets participate in some activities, particularly archery. When asked if the Veterans’ interest was the prime mover to create an archery program, she responded that the VA and the US Paralympics Committee, in a joint venture, invited one recreational therapist from each VA facility to become a Level 2 archery instructor. The committees then had them go out and create a program. When the instructor’s course was completed, Leah thought of WSA, and asked us to offer our facility. They started in late 2013, and now they use the Bedford facilities to practice archery for a few hours twice a month.
One of Leah’s goals as a Recreational Therapist was to help Veterans establish peer relationships. Recreational activities help recuperating veterans develop health by strengthening them both socially and physically. She’s was trying the program for six months, but since the program flyer is the number one taken from her department, with lots of interest, Leah thought that in the spring, the program will really grow.
Mike Fuchs, a WSA member, is activity liaison, and opens the Indoor Archery facility for the Vets, gets them set up with equipment, and then helps instruct.
I interviewed a few participants and instructors back in late February to get their insight of what the program was to them:
Pat Farmer, a Navy Vet from the Philippines, has been in the program from the first week, and he really enjoys it. It lets him get out and interact with the other Vets, and to meet other people. It’s a different activity from his work. Since he started, he’s gotten a lot of good pointers.
Jack Scullin is a Navy Vet from the Vietnam War. Jack is a volunteer driver for the Disabled American Vets, running people in buses to appointments and such 3 days a week. He used to do some archery but hadn’t done it for years. He was able to try a little shooting at the 2013 WSA Vet’s Day event, and wanted to get back into it. Today is his first day, and he has his own bow that his kids got for him, because he expressed interest.
Eric Zink is a retired US Army medic. He’s new to the program. Eric comes from a family that did a lot of hunting, although he personally never did. He heard about the program and wanted to try it. His comment, “Looks like it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Nancy Patterson is a WSA member who shoots rifle, pistol, trap and archery competitively. She also coaches Junior Trap. Nancy works as a Physical Therapist, and on the VA practice day frequently comes in to help instruct in program. What drew her to the program was that she used to work at the VA. “The people in the program are doing incredibly well, and it gives them a chance to get out with others.” On this day, she brought her Labrador retriever, Duncan. The following practice she came without him, and everyone asked “Where’s your dog?” Each session provides both physical and mental therapy. A couple of participants have such a spark, and they want to go to the next level. Her comment, “It’s good to see people who have gone through so much, enjoy themselves.”
Last, but not least, is Len Ruttledge. Len is a veteran, but is not at the Bedford VA. Lenny is a member of WSA, an instructor in the WSA Junior Archery program, and one of a number of members assisting the program. He thinks that the Vets are enjoying getting out and learning about the sport. Len wants to help pay back the veterans for what they’ve done for their country, and he really has a good time helping and teaching.
WSA is proud to be able to support programs like the Bedford VA Archery program. We wish them great success with it, and hope the veterans participating have a good time with archery. More recently, Nadene Landry has taken charge of the program. If you would like to get involved, or want more information, email her at Nadene.Landry@va.gov .
About the Woburn Sportsmen’s Association
Woburn Sportsmen’s Association in Bedford, Mass. is a shooting sports club devoted to providing its members with an opportunity to hone their skills in several different activities. Its many members participate in competitive shooting events, hunting, and all-around recreational shooting. In addition to being a shooting club, WSA is dedicated to promoting safe use and handling of firearms, offering programs for hunter safety and firearms education, and also offering a number of youth programs. WSA is strong in community activities as well. One such activity is the support of an archery program for recuperating veterans from the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VAMC).
To learn more, visit WSA’s website at https://www.woburnsportsmen.com/