I am thrilled to announce the launch of the 2018 Women Veteran Athletes Initiative. In March — Women’s History Month — 10 VA medical centers around the country will display an exhibit featuring 10 women Veteran athletes, with an expanded exhibit also available online.
Women Veterans often report feeling unrecognized and underappreciated. This exciting project will address that concern by increasing awareness of women as Veterans among VA employees, raising male Veteran awareness of their women peers and helping women feel more welcome by seeing their experiences as Veterans visibly reflected when they enter a VA facility.
By showcasing athletes across a range of ability levels, I also hope to encourage women Veterans to stay active throughout their life cycles, something with which VA Adaptive Sports and Recreation Therapy programs can assist.
VA’s Center for Women Veterans partnered on this project with Team Red, White, & Blue (Team RWB), a nonprofit organization that seeks to create quality relationships and experiences that contribute to life enrichment and overall well being. RWB has local chapters nationwide that host regular fitness, social and community service events.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this exhibition to celebrate these women and the role physical activity has played in their lives,” Team RWB development director Megan King told me. “Through this collaboration, we showcase the power of sport and its role in increasing Veterans’ life enrichment through increased physical, mental and emotional health.”
Many of our women Veterans in the exhibit are Team RWB Eagle Leaders or participants in VA Adaptive Sports programs.
Renowned photographer Stacy Pearsall, founder of the Veterans Portrait Project, took portraits of the athletes for this effort. Her work for has been has been exhibited at the Woodruff Arts Center, the Pentagon and Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. An Air Force Veteran herself, it was obvious that Stacy was able to capture the spirit and unique character of the athletes during the shoot.
The 10 women Veteran athletes selected to be featured on storyboards for the initiative are:
- Ardrena Bailey, Army
- Ivanna Brown, Air Force
- Candice Caesar, Army
- Bernardine Donato, Navy and Air Force
- Mila Dimal, Navy
- Cami Gage, Air Force
- Indira Glennon, Army
- Sarah Holzhalb, Coast Guard
- Angela Madsen, Marine Corps
- Judi Roberts, Air National Guard
The following VA locations have been chosen to host the exhibit of the ten storyboards: Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, Albany, New York; Anchorage VA Medical Center, Anchorage, Alaska; Atlanta VA Medical Center, Atlanta, Georgia; Dayton VA Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio; El Paso VA Medical Center, El Paso, Texas; Bruce W. Carter VA Medical Center, Miami, Florida; Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Minneapolis, Minnesota; VA Portland VA Health Care, Portland, Oregon; VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System, Reno, Nevada and Sioux Falls VA Health Care System, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Many of these locations are planning various events to increase awareness of the exhibits and their services for women Veterans – stay tuned for more information as details become available.
We appreciate the generous support of the Veterans Canteen Service, Semper Fi Fund, and Comcast NBCUniversal in making this exciting initiative possible. Please join me in congratulating the athletes and locations that have been selected, and check back on the Center for Women Veterans website soon for more information!