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Wisconsin awards grants to nonprofits for veteran services

By EMILY PYREK | La Crosse Tribune | Published: February 3, 2018

LA CROSSE TRIBUNE, Wis. (Tribune News Service) — Two La Crosse-based organizations were among the recipients of sizable grants from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs this week.

Eleven nonprofits statewide were awarded a total of $250,000 in funds to be used toward services and assistance for veterans and their families, including the La Crosse Area Veterans Mentor Program and La Crosse Area YMCA Wellness Warriors program. Funding came from a nonprofit grant program passed in spring 2014.

"It is important that we support our veterans and remember their sacrifices every day," said Gov. Scott Walker. "Through the organizations here today and these grants, we can continue helping serve those who fought for our freedom. Wisconsin already provides more benefits to veterans than any other state, and we will continue working to serve our veterans."

The La Crosse Area Veterans Mentor Program, which offers support for veterans struggling with mental illness, substance abuse, behavioral health or housing issues, received $25,000 to continue hosting recreational activities for disabled veterans. The organization facilitates adaptive versions of sports including soccer, kayaking and sled hockey. Staff was unavailable for comment Thursday.

A $10,000 grant was awarded to the YMCA's Wellness Warriors program, which promotes stress relief, socialization and mental wellness through fitness. A partnership between the YMCA, Onalaska American Legion and the La Crosse Vet Center, the program offers 10 week sessions four times a year, which include workouts with a personal trainer, counseling and a free membership to the YMCA for both the veteran and their family members. Participants are asked to volunteer at a community event, such as Rotary Lights, and at the end of the course members participate in a group outing such as skiing or a 5K.

"All of the vets we have in the program have emotional trauma, PTSD, sexual trauma," said Christopher Matt, wellness director for the Hauser Family YMCA. "Being able to get into a more social setting is huge. Half of them become Y members ... they have their social outlet."

The grant funds will be directed towards Wellness Warrior program events, YMCA memberships for participants and the expansion of the program to veterans not currently served by the La Crosse Vet Center.

Additional grant recipients:

Artists for the Humanities in Appleton received $25,000 to continue providing free assistance to veterans suffering from PTSD.

* Fox Valley Veterans Council in Appleton was awarded $25,000 for assisting veterans enrolled in school.

* Latino Veterans Legacy of Valor Foundation in Milwaukee was granted $25,000 to support programs for Latino veterans and their families.

* Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative of West Allis was awarded $25,000 to provide homeless and at-risk veterans with house wares and essentials.

* The Highground Veterans Memorial Park in Neillsville received $25,000 toward the park's museum of veteran artifacts.

* Trinity Equestrian Center in Eau Claire was awarded $25,000 to fund equine assisted therapy for veterans with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.

* USO Wisconsin of Milwaukee received $25,000 to fund events and programs for military members and their families.

* UW Superior Foundation of Superior was granted $25,000 to provide programming for veterans and their families, including an annual veterans' expo.

* Veterans Ceremony--Union Grove Cemetery in Rhinelander was awarded $15,000 towards a monument and ceremonies honoring veterans.

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(c)2018 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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