Professor Devotes Sabbatical to Helping Wounded Warriors

summers-veteran photo

Eastern Kentucky University has won numerous national honors in recent years for its efforts to help military veterans pursue higher education. Twice, it has been named by Military Times as the nation’s No. 1 school in its “Best for Vets” rankings.

Now, an EKU professor is using her sabbatical to help Wounded Warriors.

Dr. Louisa Summers, a professor in EKU’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, is helping severely injured military at four Wounded Warrior Project Lima Foxtrot camps March-August at the Lakeshore Foundation (www.lakeshore.org/lima-foxtrot) in Birmingham, Ala. The events, each with approximately 20-25 participants, are:

·         Operation Perseverance, March 4-8, for military personnel who have sustained physical injuries for an introduction to Paralympic sports.

·         Operation Refocus, April 22-26, for servicewomen who have sustained physical injuries. As a female-only event, it allows needs specific to women to be addressed. Activities focus on the mind, body and spirit. “The female camp is different,” Summers said, “because the majority of females have experienced sexual assault. Not all members of the camps have been assaulted, but they have emotional scars as well as the physical disabilities. The women help each other because they do not feel alone. A counselor at home may address the emotional issues, but not have the expertise to discuss the physical side.”

·         Operation Night Vision, May 27-31, which brings sport and recreation to servicemen and women who have suffered significant eye injuries or blindness. Activities include cycling, archery, shooting, scuba, judo, rock climbing, fishing, water skiing, kayaking and more.

·         Operation Alpha, Aug. 5-9, which was developed for injured service members who have sustained a traumatic brain injury. It features multiple sports and recreation activities, including cycling, archery, shooting, scuba, rock climbing, fishing and water skiing.

“I am going there to assist in whatever capacity they need me to,” Summers said. “I really just want to serve others and learn how I can be a better adapted physical education teacher and researcher when I return. I feel like I have skills that are useful, and I may as well help others and learn while doing.”

As a United States Track and Field Certified Level I coach, Summers will assist with Paralympic activities – three years ago, she officiated at the U.S. Paralympic Trials. Her doctoral degree is in Adapted Physical Activity and her chief research interest has long been helping adults with physical disabilities, so “I can provide information regarding adaptations for most sports.” Her personal training is with triathlons, “so I will also be able to assist with cycling and swimming.”

Summers will also be conducting a research study, as part of the Lakeshore Foundation’s Collaborative with researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which examines the effects of the Paralympic Sports Camp on adapted sport and recreation activity when the veterans return home. “No research has examined what happens when the Wounded Warriors go home,” she said. “There are many, many Wounded Warrior camps, and we know they are beneficial, but we don’t know if the veterans are able to stay active when they get home.”

Ever since Eastern began to gain national notoriety for its efforts to help veterans, Summers has wanted to start adapted sport and exercise programs to assist those with disabilities. With the help of Campus Recreation, she is pursuing the addition of wheelchair basketball. “We need funding for the cost of wheelchairs,” she noted.

“I would like to better serve our veterans at EKU and in Madison County,” Summers said. “Most of our veterans will not identify as having a disability. However, many veterans with minimal disability can help those few who have greater physical disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, or amputees. Some older veterans may be interested in exercising with others or maybe even coaching or playing wheelchair basketball. Once we get wheelchair basketball started, it will be for able-bodied individuals as well. We will all be playing together.”

Published on March 07, 2015

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