Wounded Veterans In Atlanta Find Renewed Love Of Fitness And Community Through Adaptive Sports

“You can come out here and do anything anybody else can do, and there are people out here to help you to succeed in that.”

Blaze Sports Cycling

Blaze Sports

For many veterans and active duty military members who suffer from combat-related injuries, they may struggle with physically healing their bodies and mentally finding their sense of self and community. Blaze Sports, a nonprofit organization based out of Atlanta, provides that safe community for veterans through its uplifting, therapeutic, and energetic adaptive sports programs. 

“Our mission is to impact veterans’ health and lifestyle,” Dawn Churi, Blaze Sports Executive Director, told Southern Living. “When veterans come back with their injuries, they may not think that they can be healthy because they may not know adaptive sports exist. They may think sports and recreation aren’t possible anymore, but adaptive sports really introduce the healthy benefits of sports.”

Blaze Sports offers 12 different programs that range from archery, rowing and cycling to bowling and yoga. They’ve also listened to feedback from the veterans and added sports they’re interested in: pickleball and air rifle. Whether or not a veteran is looking for a more-intensive physical activity or something more relaxed, Blaze Sports has a program to fit every veterans’ needs.

Blaze Sports Pickleball

Blaze Sports

The physical recreation and health benefits aren’t the only rewards veterans gain from the program. Arguably, even more important are the emotional and mental benefits from gaining new comradery with fellow veterans. 

“This journey for me started with an open mind,” said Blaze Sports veteran Barbara Amey. “It was like magic, authentic, safe, pure, beautiful. The comradeship was awesome. I let a part of me out that has been hidden for so long. Something about the environment was absolutely mesmerizing, for everyone that attended.  I stepped outside of my box into my comfort zone without even realizing it.”

During some events, separate sessions are also held between male and female because “the female (military) population do have different needs and sometimes have different traumas,” said Churi.

“Having so many females in one place was amazing,” said veteran Renee Wright. “The breakout time that divided the males and females was much needed. When it's all women, you can put down the tough exterior. By all the women sharing, it made me feel like I wasn't alone.”

Blaze Sports also welcomes veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and not necessarily a physical injury. 

“When you hear stories of veterans coming back home, whether they have a physical disability, PTSD or just being away from their families, the reintegration process is difficult,” said Churi. “If we can impact them and help with that process, with the community and the health and wellness, I think they deserve all the help that they can get for the sacrifices that they’ve made.”

What sets Blaze Sports apart from other veteran programs is their programs are held on a weekly basis, which allows veterans to really form a special bond with one another and learn to heal together.  

“Blaze Sports has impacted my life by giving me my life back. I thought there were activities that I could no longer do. But by this being adaptive sports, I fit in perfectly” said veteran Wright. “Being around my other veterans, learning of their disabilities, and how they push on and how they continue to do that activity. So that's what keeps me going. A lot of people just don't know about adaptive sports and that it doesn't matter what your limitations are. You can come out here and do anything anybody else can do, and there are people out here to help you to succeed in that.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles