IDS' Gulf Park campus staff, VA therapists to begin therapeutic kayaking with veterans

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi 

The Institute for Disability Studies (IDS), located at the Technology Learning Center on The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, recently received a grant from the U.S. Paralympics Committee to connect the sport of kayaking with veterans from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (VA).

The grant, titled "Yakin with Vets: Boosting Veteran's Life On and Off the Waters," will allow one therapist from the local VA and one IDS staff member to receive training on the basic knowledge of the therapeutic benefits of kayaking. In turn, the therapist and staff member will then use their training to instruct veterans, the community and additional VA and IDS staff.

"South Mississippi is surrounded by coastal waterways and rivers, which makes this project a plus for veterans," said Ashley-Nicole Ross Flowers, coordinator of recreational services and assistive technology specialist at the IDS Technology Learning Center. "With public waters just outside their doors, veterans can enjoy a challenging sport, which may also lead to other therapeutic goals."

Initial training began this week and the grant will continue to fund training through September. Although the grant will only fund initial training for several months, IDS staff will continue to monitor outcomes of the training program.

"The 'Yakin with Vets' project is a wonderful opportunity for the VA Gulf Coast Veterans Healthcare System to partner with USM's Technology Learning Center to provide opportunities for our veterans to participate in adapted sports activities such as kayaking," said Laura Throop, supervisor for recreation therapy at the VA Gulf Coast Veterans Healthcare System. "This project increases and expands the quantity and quality of adaptive sports activities available in the community and is intended to help disabled veterans improve their health, independence and well- being."

The Technology Learning Center, which also serves as a lending library for sporting and technology equipment for people with disabilities, has several kayaks within its inventory. The grant has allowed the purchase of two new kayaks – one each for both the VA and the Technology Learning Center to be used for therapeutic training with veterans.

The Institute for Disability Studies serves as Mississippi's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Research, Education and Service. The Institute's Technology Learning Center on the university's Gulf Park campus in Long Beach serves children and adults with disabilities through assistive technology, evaluation, consultation and recreation.