Red Coat Ambassadors sponsors Veterans to attend Wheelchair Games

Improving the Veteran Experience across VA with help from VCS


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Red Coat Ambassadors are those who wear a red coat or vest and greet and escort Veterans, visitors and family members at VA sites. Most recently, they’ve helped out at the 39th National Veterans Wheelchair games. The ambassadors provide pleasant personal assistance with navigation and VA information sharing to Vets all around the country each day.

Through the sale and purchase of Red Coat apparel, currently totaling 4,914 red vests and 940 red jackets, 50 Veterans were able to attend the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky, this month. Last year, 46 Veterans attended the games for the first time thanks to the Veterans Canteen Service (VCS) and Red Coat revenue.

VCS is a self-sustaining shop providing merchandise and services to Veterans enrolled in VA’s Health Care system, their families, caregivers, VA employees, volunteers and visitors. Revenue generated from the Veterans Canteen Service are used to sponsor five VA National Rehabilitation Games (Golden Age Games, Wheelchair Games, TEE Tournament, Summer Sports Clinic and Creative Arts Festival).

These programs allow disabled Veterans of all ages and abilities to participate in adaptive sport programs and special events. VCS proudly supports the games as they promote wellness, rehabilitation, and camaraderie among the Veteran athletes.

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During the 39th National Veterans Wheelchair Games, Red Coat Ambassadors were prominent at all entrances and sporting areas. Mary Bledsaw, a health technician from the Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville, Kentucky, led the local Guest Services Committee to help plan and prepare for the games. It was Bledsaw who had the idea to put Red Coats on her team.

“Every VA has the red vests (or coats) and we wanted our guest services volunteers to stand out during the wheelchair games. I wanted a way for us to be the concierge of the games. How can we make the experience that much better? To be knowledgeable on where things are, what events are going on… and that’s how we incorporated that into our team for the games.” – Mary Bledsaw, Chair, Guest Services Committee, 39th National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Bledsaw (shown in the top photo second from the left) has already been in contact with the Guest Services Committee at the Portland, Oregon VA Medical Center, who will be hosting the 40th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in 2020, to pass along the success of having Red Coat Ambassadors present at the games.

The Summer Sports Clinic is the next big event led by the National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events Office and it’s already at capacity due to an overwhelming response from Veteran athletes.

If you are interested in becoming a VA Red Coat Ambassador, visit: https://www.volunteer.va.gov/.

To shop VCS and help support Veterans visit: https://www.shopvcs.com/.

Author

Beth Lamb

Beth Lamb has been a member of VA’s Veterans Experience Office since January 2017. She previously held Public Affairs positions for several Veterans Health Administration facilities and currently lives in Missouri with her family.