JEFFERSON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — More than two dozen disabled military veterans and their families will get a chance to relax and enjoy summer this weekend thanks to the Veterans No Boundaries summer program.
VNB is part of the group called Maine Adaptive, which helps a wide range of Maine people with physical disabilities enjoy the outdoors. Each year for 12 years, they’ve taken over Camp Wavus on Damariscotta Lake for a few days, helping veterans put their disabilities aside and just have fun.
The veterans come from all over Maine and other parts of the country. This year has the largest group yet: 29 veterans and family members, including many children.
Some of the vets are disabled from combat or accidents during their time in the service, while others suffered a disability after they left the military.
During the camp, they will get to do many of the typical summer camp activities, including kayaking, canoeing, fishing, bike riding, and trying the role climbing course. All those activities will be done with the help of volunteer instructors and assistants.
The staff and volunteers who run the camp said the activities they do over the next few days can be life-changing for some of the vets.
"I think it helps them know that there are things they can do when everyone says they can’t," said camp co-director Joanne McMahon, a retired Navy nurse. "[People say,] 'you’ve been injured, you can’t,' but this is a can-do experience. Let's try it."
Veterans No Boundaries is made possible by grants and donations from individuals, businesses and other groups. They also hold a winter camp each year, plus connect veterans to volunteer instructors at other times.
McMahon told of a woman at one recent camp, a family member of a veteran, who said, "Thank you for giving my soldier his life back."
"Ill try everything to see if I can do it," said John Peeling. "Paddle a kayak or canoe? Absolutely. Any of these? Ride a bike. Absolutely."
Many of the volunteers who coach the different activities are former military themselves.
This camp is paid for by donations and grants. The veterans and families pay their way for travel, but everything else is provided. And most of the coaching in activities, even some of the cooking, is done by volunteers.