NewsUplifting Arizona


Phoenix VA launches sailing program for veterans

Posted at 6:36 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 20:36:00-05

PHOENIX — A new Veterans Affairs program took its maiden voyage on Friday.

"I've always been interested in sailing," said Barbara Lee, an Air Force veteran. "I think it's pretty cool."

The new sailing therapy program is part of the Phoenix VA's adaptive sports programs and looks to help veterans dealing with physical conditions or mental health disorders like PTSD.

"For a lot of veterans, this will be peaceful for them where they need the quietness to be calm," said Michael Smith, a Navy veteran.

The program was created after the sailing school Tiller and Kites reached out to the VA. The school's owner, Victor Felice, said sailing can be good both physically and mentally.

According to Lee, working as a team helps her deal with her trauma.

"(I) have issues with military sexual trauma as part of my experience in the military," she said.

"It helps me be around other people and be comfortable," she said.

Veterans also painted a boat with military symbols that will be used during the program.

Organizers said that even art can have a mental health benefit.

"They said just participating in that experience brought them closer to their fellow vets," said Kristian Ritter, a recreational therapist with the VA.

"It also taught them things about themselves they didn't know before," she added.

This is the first program of its kind in Arizona. However, other states like Utah and Florida have reported success with similar programs.