While in Sun Valley we connected with Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, a nonprofit that works with injured veterans using adaptive sports. They lead week long retreats focused on specific activities with small groups of veterans from around the country who have been injured in the war in Iraq. Our visit brought us to beautiful Pettite Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho to work with a small group of women veterans suffering from post traumatic stress, abuse, and other mental injuries from the war. The week long retreat was targeted towards water sports, specifically kayaking and paddleboarding, with the participants spending the week in cabins on the lake. It is a beautiful lake with surrounding forest and mountains, perfect for a week of relaxation and recovery.
The women in the program ranged in age, injury, and ability in the water. One woman attended the retreat without knowing how to swim but took it as a challenge to face her fear of the water that had persisted throughout her life (despite being a Marine!). Despite their differences out of the water, their laughter could be heard around the lake and they all enjoyed their time together swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It was uplifting to see them work together and help each other out with the various activities, and to watch their recovery in action.
Because of the abuse that some of the participants had experienced we spent most of our time outside of their water activities, helping with tasks such as chopping firewood for their cabins. We were cautious about giving the women space and not interfering with their recovery, and it gave us an interesting look at the details that go into making a week long retreat like this happen. However, by the end of the day some of the women had become comfortable enough with us to lend a hand chopping and stacking wood, a surprisingly stress-relieving job itself!
Sun Valley was a long anticipated visit for The Voluntour as it is the home of Middlebury alums and GivingSomeThing supporters, Dave and Jackie Hennessy. We had the pleasure of volunteering with 2 of their daughters, Hannah and Kelly, and the family graciously hosted us that night following an incredible bbq with locally farmed steaks and the best shrimp salad we’ve ever had! Thank you to the Hennessy’s for their hospitality as we head on to Jackson, Wyoming to continue The Voluntour!