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Team Miami VA is Ready to Go in Sand, Snow

Miami VA Healthcare System Adaptive Sports Team
Veterans and staff from the Miami VA Healthcare System’s adaptive sports team arrived prepared to conquer the mountain during the 38th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, in Snowmass, Colo. (Photo by Axel Villacis-Maldonado, VA Media Team)

Draped in neon orange fleece, the assembly of Veterans and coaches who comprise the Miami VA Healthcare System’s adaptive sports team is hard to miss, but it’s not just their clothing that unites them.

These vibrant individuals also share a passion for laughing in the face of adversity and during the 38th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, they’re doing just that. 

“Veterans are the only population who have given so much, and are still willing to give more,” said Miami VA Recreational Therapist Alex Maitre. “My colleagues and I teach the Veterans we work with skills like how to propel, weight shift, and reach because not only do they help with events like this, but they’re also transferable to other areas of life.” 

The Miami VA’s adaptive sports team includes two physical therapists, a recreational therapist and a physician who are specially equipped to guide the 12 Veterans who are part of this year’s team. 

“I began coming to the Winter Sports Clinic in 2019,” said U.S. Army Veteran Frances Osorio Rivera. “I’m glad there’s such a persuasive team who want us to be engaged in different outdoor sports because it does make a difference in your life. I’m privileged to have Miami VA as my main care center because they go above and beyond.” 

In addition to their coordinated jackets, the effort the coaches make to prepare their Veterans for the event contributes to the uniqueness of the team. Approximately four months before the clinic, Veterans begin interval cardio training sessions that help them prepare for the drastically different altitude.

“Coming from Miami, a lot of Veterans have never dreamed of participating in winter sports, so the challenge is heightened,” said Miami VA Physical Therapist Rafael Hernandez. “Whenever I start working with a Veteran, one of my promises is that they’ll be coming to the Winter Sports Clinic one day. It's very rewarding to see that promise come to fruition.”

Staff from the Miami VA’s adaptive sports team also invite Veterans to attend bi-weekly meetings where they are briefed on attire, logistics of transportation, climate, and information and tips to help them during the event. 

“We as a team ensure their experience coming to, participating in, and leaving this event happens seamlessly,” said Miami VA Physical Therapist Samanda Vazquez. “This event is about the big picture, it’s about living. To meet a Veteran at the beginning of their recovery and then to see them go down the mountain, and their smiles, is priceless.”