Higher Ground Helps Veterans Elevate Themselves Through the joy of the Great Outdoors - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Higher Ground Helps Veterans Elevate Themselves Through the joy of the Great Outdoors

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There is no denying the power of the outdoors and the thrill of interacting with nature. But the benefits of outdoor activity are more than just anecdotal. Researchers, including those from the National Institutes of Health, have found that outdoor activities can provide a range of mental health benefits including a reduction in stress and anxiety, increased emotional stability, improved memory, and a self-perceived increase in quality of life.

Higher Ground, a local partner within the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s #GotYourSix national network, is helping veterans thrive through outdoor recreation. The nationwide organization, with a presence in Los Angeles, New York, and Sun Valley (Idaho), promotes recreational therapy for children and veterans with disabilities through flyfishing, adapted cycling, paraskiing, watersports, golf, and more. Through both day and week-long trips, Higher Ground is helping to promote mental and physical health.

“We like to say that Higher Ground is a building block for our participants, really bridging the gap between disability and belonging,” Kattie Dobbie, Higher Ground Executive Director said.

For some veterans, life may not ever be quite the same after service. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fulfilling.

“With what your functional ability is how can we make you as independent as possible to increase your quality of life?” Jeff Burley, Director of Adaptive Sports at Higher Ground Sun Valley asks while explaining the goals of the organization.

Higher Ground covers the costs of their recreational therapy activities which include equipment, travel, and lodging expenses. The Carrion family credits these trips with bringing their family closer together and providing them with memories they will cherish for a long time.

“Life before the program was challenging,” Diego Carrion, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps said of Higher Ground. “When you get out of the Marine Corps you deal with a lot of things.”

Higher Ground provided the Carrion family with a gift they used to purchase new bicycles. Now, they can enjoy their own version of recreational therapy every weekend.

“Every Sunday, we wake up in the morning and we go and ride about 15 or 20 miles,” Diego said. “What that does for my wife and family, it brings us closer together.”

“Higher Ground was a life-changing experience for me”

Another veteran, Justin Paterson, describes his moving experiences with Higher Ground.

“Higher Ground was a life-changing experience for me,” he explained. “Through the bonding, through the people I met… I’ve been to a couple of other retreats, but none were like this where the staff stays in touch with you and makes an impression on you…and parts of your soul.”

For Justin, Higher Ground is more than a place to access therapy or pick up a lift ticket for a ski mountain—it is an organization that facilitated a transformation, an organization that has given him a new lease on life.

“After I came to Higher Ground, I felt like I was filled with new life, a new breath of fresh air. My wife, who is also my caregiver…, coming through this program allowed me to fall in love with my wife and caregiver all over again.”

The true scope of Higher Ground’s work cannot easily be captured in a story like this. We encourage our readers to go to their website and to read about their work, testimonials, and the impact they are having on the lives of veterans.

You can also check out the video below to learn more about the work Higher Ground does with children and veterans.