Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, St. Petersburg, Florida
As a way to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities across the country are turning to a different form of rehabilitative treatment — creative arts. Each year, veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities showcase their talents in local creative arts competitions. For some, this provides an opportunity to open up and express themselves. “It’s an honor to be chosen out of so many talented people,” said one performer. “Being in the festival builds up my confidence. It brings joy into my life.” The visual arts division includes 51 categories, ranging from oil paintings to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In the performing arts division, there are 100 categories related to all aspects of music, dance, drama, and creative writing. “It’s given back a different life for me,” another performer said. “I always say if you get that second chance, grab it, run, and don’t look back.” Through a national judging process, first, second, and third place entries in each category are determined. Only selected first place winners are featured at NVCAF. Learm more about NVCAF at https://www.blogs.va.gov.
Since 2000, the Auxiliary has co-presented NVCAF, alongside the Department of Veterans Affairs. Carrying out the Auxiliary’s mission of Service Not Self, members, units, and departments make generous monetary donations to help carry out this event. Best of all, Auxiliary members have had the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with these heroes who participate, leading to a life-changing experience for many. “What surprises me is how giving the ALA is, how unselfish they are,” said a performer. “I’ve had the time of my life here.”
Want to see photos of the Auxiliary making a difference at this event for our veterans? Visit NVCAF on Facebook.
The American Legion Auxiliary Foundation also plays a part in supporting these events through offering Veterans Creative Arts Festival (VCAF) Grants. The purpose of these grants is to aid in the well-being of veterans by introducing them to art therapy. Whether used for workshops, preparation for, or facilitation of local competitions which feed into the National Festival, grant funds may be requested for needs that contribute to this effort. For example, thanks to a $2,500 VCAF grant from the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation, four dozen veterans had the opportunity to show off their talents during a local veterans creative arts festival in Vermont. “You can see them light up when they have accomplished something, they felt they couldn’t do when they started,” said ALA member Janet Osmer. “This is a great program for your mind, love, and most of all, self-confidence.”
If you’re interested in applying for a Veterans Creative Arts Festival grant or would like to learn more information, visit www.ALAFoundation.org