Feb. 18, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Program supports Iraq war veterans
SRU receives $25,000 grant from Reeve Foundation
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has received a $25,000 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to expand a student-led fitness program for local veterans with disabilities. The program plans to introduce wheelchair basketball and quad rugby to serve veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"We're going to attract a new group of younger veterans and promote a higher level of fitness, recreation and competitive sport opportunities for them," said Robert Arnhold, SRU professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences. "This expanded approach will complement our existing Americans with Disabilities Recreation Program that currently provides recreation services for disabled veterans from Vietnam and earlier wars." The Reeve foundation, named for the late actor and his late wife, has given SRU grants each of the past four years totaling more than $108,000, Arnhold said. Some of the money supported scholarships for SRU students with spinal cord injuries.
Natalie White, an SRU exercise science major from Mechanicsburg, will coordinate the program for younger veterans. Students majoring in physical education, therapeutic recreation, athletic training and special education will also volunteer.
"To be given the opportunity to run a program this, I am very honored and very excited," White said, adding she wants to introduce veterans to the equine-assisted activities offered at the University's Storm Harbor Equestrian Center. Horseback riding promotes balance and coordination skills that can be helpful for amputees.
"I want to get a master's degree in adapted physical activity and open a gym or facility for adapted programs someday," White said. "Running this program is great experience that will help me be more qualified in the future. Veterans have a strong need for competition. They love playing sports, getting in there and getting lots of activity."
SRU partners with the Butler Veterans Administration Hospital to bring 15 older veterans to campus once a week for recreational activities. The Butler VA will connect younger veterans to the opportunities at SRU, according to Arnhold.
"This grant supports our mission of providing real-life learning opportunities for our students in adapted education while meeting a need in the community," he said.
The Reeve foundation, based in Springfield, N.J., supports programs that improve the daily lives of people living with disabilities, especially those with spinal cord injury.
Christopher Reeve, best known for playing the role of Superman, fractured his spine in a 1995 equestrian accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. He later formed the foundation in his name and became a tireless advocate for spinal cord research. He died in 2004. Dana Reeve died in 2006.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.