For nearly two decades, the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) has been a co-presenter in the annual National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). The Veteran service organization raises funds and provides volunteers who escort Veterans to their rehearsals and performances. In addition, they provide the food and refreshments offered in the ALA-sponsored hospitality room.
Creative arts help Veterans cope with disabilities
VA medical facilities use creative arts to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. Each year, Veterans enrolled for care at VA facilities compete in local creative arts competitions. Through a national judging process, first-, second- and third-place winners in each category compete at the NVCAF.
“The festival is a wonderful way to demonstrate our commitment to the health and well-being of our Veterans, military and their families,” said Nicole Clapp, ALA National President.
Georgia Downs says ALA members from across the state have been coordinating the NVCAF for the past year. Downs is the ALA Department of Michigan president.
“We co-hosted the NVCAF last year and are primarily responsible for the hospitality rooms at the festival,” said Downs. “The room is a space where Veterans, their families and loved ones can relax and regroup between rehearsals and auditions.”
Donations from ALA across Michigan
This year, ALA districts across Michigan raised more than $17,000 in donations and special contributions to support the NVCAF.
Chris Reed is the VA and rehabilitation representative for the Michigan ALA. Reed explains the special efforts used to collect the supplies needed for this year’s festival.
“One of the ways we were able to pull everything together was through a Hospitality Shower. We reached out to all of the ALA districts throughout the state and requested paper products, supplies and monetary donations,” said Reed. They also identified around 30 volunteers to staff the game room.
New game room for the festival
The game room is new to the festival. As a result, event coordinators can offer pool, foosball, pinball and board games. Event participants also can enjoy Casino Night and Michigan Night throughout the week.
Kimberly Ziel explains the NVCAF would not be a success without the help and support of the ALA. Ziel is the lead recreation therapist at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center and this year’s host site coordinator.
“Working with the ALA has been amazing,” said Ziel. “They’ve helped with every step along the way. We are very grateful for their support in making this year’s NVCAF such a big success.”
Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, is a public affairs specialist with the Bay Pines VA Health Care System.