The National VA TEE Tournament, in partnership with the Disabled Veterans of America (DAV), is an opportunity for Veterans to engage in therapy through golf and other activities like horseback riding and canoeing. Another opportunity that the TEE Tournament provides is respite for the companions of the participants, caregivers who are spouses, children, or friends of the Veteran, to take a break from their regular schedules and connect with other caregivers. All week during the event, the companion program offers activities such as meals at local establishments, shopping at many of the unique local shopping venues, and discussions with other caregivers who may offer support and insight about self-care. On Tuesday, the group visited Sister’s Garden and Strington in Kalona, IA, an eclectic store of uncommon goods. Donna Heminger was with the group, and has been a part of the companion program for 23 years, almost from the inception of the TEE Tournament. She drives from Toledo, Ohio, every year to connect with fellow caregivers and take a week for herself. “Just getting to know the girls on this trip, and getting to know the area around here. It is just fun, so much fun to be here and be around this group.” Says Donna, who mentions that all her friends back home know that in September, they are headed to Iowa. Shawnee Drent, on the other hand, is here for her first time. Her husband has attended the TEE tournament for three years, but this is her first time coming for the companion event. “It has been great to get to share, to get to here other people’s stories.” Says Shawnee.
The National VA TEE Tournament is the only national VA event with a caregiver support element. The companion program has been in place for the 25 years that the TEE Tournament has been serving Veterans.