The Boston College Wounded Warrior Project, which pairs a student-athlete with a veteran to work on improving his or her physical and mental health, is hosting a gala to raise funds to continue the project into next semester.
The project, which first began last January, pairs BC student-athletes with war veterans for a weekly workout. The veterans then attend a luncheon with a BC professor who talks to them about health and nutrition.
The gala is on Nov. 1 at Gregorian Oriental Rugs in Newton Lower Falls. They decided to hold the gala so that they are not reliant on funding from the Wounded Warriors Foundation, said Suvin Song, CSON ’17.
They thought that raising its own funds would set a precedent for other universities interested in starting a program. Song said BC is the only university running a program like this, as far as she knows.
The grant was originally intended for just one semester, but Burgess was able to convince them to extend it for another two semesters. As a result, the program ran throughout the summer and just entered its third semester at BC.
They hope to raise about $15,000 at the gala. This money would support the program through the spring semester and into the summer.
There is no set guest list for the event, Song said, but they reached out to senior ROTC students, veteran alumni, and sponsors of the gala. The veterans who participate in the program will also be in attendance. Anyone is welcome to attend.
“It’s a lot of work for a grant, and you’d have to report back to them essentially,” she said. “This way we aren’t as reliant on [the Wounded Warrior Foundation].”
Song began working as an undergraduate research fellow for Ann Burgess, one of the faculty leaders of the Wounded Warrior project and a professor in the Connell School of Nursing, in May after returning from studying abroad for the spring semester. It was Burgess who introduced Song to the program.
The program began in January, when Burgess and her colleague Stacy Garrity, a professor in the Connell School of Nursing, received a grant from the Wounded Warriors Foundation.
The program reached out to student athletes, asking them if they want to participate. The athletes selected go through a confidentiality information session before meeting the veterans. For the first few weeks, the athletes and veterans meet for workouts on Tuesdays, but do not get specific pairings. They do this to allow natural friendships and pairings to occur.
They will pair student-athletes with veterans based on interests. For example, Song said that if a veteran wants to work on strength training, they place them with a football player who works on strength training too.
“We help pair them, but it’s not forced in any way,” Song said.
The veterans receive a pass to the Flynn Recreation Complex, but they will also run around the Reservoir or up the Million Dollar Stairs. The veterans also receive a FitBit to track their progress, a BC parking pass, and BC workout apparel.
Each semester, there are about four or five veterans enrolled.
“It’s hard to make this a big program because then we can’t focus our attention on each person,” Song said.
At the start of each semester, they weigh the veterans and have them take a depression test to better understand the ongoing effects of the program.
Many of the veterans, Song explained, cannot sleep more than three hours a night. But once they get involved in the program, they are able to sleep after the Tuesday workout.
The program works with many different departments at BC, Song said, and they have all been helpful and supportive. BC Athletics gave them football tickets to auction off at the gala, and invited the veterans in the program to come onto the field at the Clemson football game on Oct. 7.
After their Tuesday morning working out with the athletes, the veterans attend a health class, which is hosted by different BC professors.
“That’s helpful for them because it’s not just exercising that is helping their well-being,” Song said.
On Thursday, the veterans come to campus for class. Each week, the subject of the class is different. In the past, a professor from the German department has come to talk about his work translating German texts.
“We don’t really want to talk about war because they don’t want to talk about war,” Song said. “So it’s really just about fostering a community that’s supportive and helping them transition to civilian life.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor