Since 2006, more than 1,200 severely injured servicemen and women have found refuge at a one-of-a-kind institution in central Alabama that offers them a place to relax, rehabilitate, and regain the physical and emotional strength needed to carry on with their lives. Through a comprehensive regimen of fitness, recreation, and transitional services, the Lakeshore Foundation’s Lima Foxtrot program brings new hope to veterans facing life-changing debilitating injuries.
Veterans have come from 38 states and two territories to learn how to adapt to and even thrive with their new physical challenges. Therapeutic programs focus on the restorative benefits of individual and group sports such as basketball, cycling, rock climbing, tennis, and even waterskiing.
“Sports and recreation can be a positive way of rebuilding a life, of reconnecting with family and friends, of gaining skills, and, ultimately, gaining confidence,” explains Lakeshore Foundation president Jeff Underwood.
Until recently, Lima Foxtrot participants were lodged in dormitory-style housing, which meant they had to leave their extended families behind or put them up in a nearby motel while getting treatment. But a new 10-unit LEED-Gold family housing complex on the foundation’s campus now provides a cozy retreat for the vets and their loved ones to stay together. Most important, the privately funded $2.3 million Cottages of Lakeshore project makes it possible for family members or friends to actively participate in service members’ rehabilitation, says Underwood.
“When an individual leaves, we want him or her to have learned and participated in sports and activities alongside a family member or close friend so they can have help with that activity at home, sort of like a recreation buddy,” he says. “We’ve found there is more of a likelihood the veteran will continue with that activity.”
Composed of eight one-bedroom duplex-style studios and two freestanding three-bedroom houses, the Craftsman-style Cottages gives veterans and their families a private place to heal as well the chance to meet other families who are experiencing similar physical, mental, and emotional issues. To create a sense of community, the design team sited the dwellings around a central common area and dotted the 1.5-acre grounds with gathering places for socializing or solitude such as an arbor with a fireplace, a fountain area, and a children’s playground. “It’s just a really serene, peaceful place to be, almost resort-like,” says project architect Louis Nequette.
The typical length of a stay is about five days, says Underwood, but visits often extend beyond that. Transportation to Alabama, treatment, and lodging for veterans and family are provided free of charge by the foundation. Vets arrive with a range of challenges including blindness, limb loss, and spinal cord injuries, so all units are one level and are fully handicap accessible, with extra-wide doorways, wheelchair-height countertops, and grab bars and roll-in showers in the bathrooms.