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Feature Stories

Join Us for the 2015 Run to Home Base Presented by New Balance. Who Do You Run For?

 Spring is finally here! As the snow melts, we at the Home Base Program are training and preparing for our biggest event of the year, the 2015 Run to Home Base Presented by New Balance, July 25th at Fenway Park.

There is nothing quite like the Run to Home Base Presented by New Balance. Thousands of people will come together with one goal—to serve those who have served us. This is your chance to say thank you to the men and women who serve our country. All funds raised help the Home Base Program heal the Invisible Wounds of War for Post-9/11 Veterans and their Families through clinical care, wellness-based programs, community outreach, education and research.

The day begins and ends inside Fenway Park. Participants set off for a 9K run or a 2 mile walk through scenic Boston and finish with a photo as they cross Home Plate with friends and family cheering in the stands. There are several ways to participate. Sign up to run, walk, or donate to an individual or team. Register by April 20th and runners have a discounted $750 fundraising requirement. Walkers are only required to raise $250 and actively serving military and “virtual runners” have no minimum fundraising requirement. Actively serving military can find the registration application at www.runtohomebase.org/military-registration.

 We need your help. Register, donate, or simply find out more information at www.runtohomebase.org. Then, share your story. Help us promote the festivities by following our Facebook and Twitter accounts and posting one of our #RunToHomeBase Shareable Images on social media. Tell everyone who you run for, and inspire others to do the same.

“When Veterans return home—their mission is complete. Ours, though, is just beginning,” says Brigadier General (Ret.) Jack Hammond. “The funds raised from this event go towards providing world-class care to help these men and women heal from Invisible Wounds such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. We couldn’t do it without the support of thousands of runners and walkers.”

If your organization is interested in forming a corporate run team or for information regarding corporate sponsorship, contact Paula Goldfarb at pgoldfarb@partners.org.

New Session Begins in SW Florida in May

  Helping Post 9/11 Veterans in Southwest Florida heal from the Invisible Wounds of War.

Warrior Health and Fitness Program is a FREE, six-month program for up to 30 Southwest Florida Veterans. Warrior Health and Fitness is designed to help Post 9/11 Veterans – men and women – improve their physical health and well being through supervised physical exercise, education about healthy eating, living, sleep hygiene, stress management and the health benefits of physical activity.

Participants in Warrior Health and Fitness will have mandatory check-ins at Florida Gulf Coast University and JetBlue Park.

Warrior Health and Fitness is a collaboration of the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program and Florida Gulf Coast University.

Interested Veterans should contact Armando Hernandez, CSCS, Program Coordinator and Health Trainer. Email ahernandez17@partners.org or call (239) 770-2414.

Naples Daily News Profiles Warrior Health And Fitness Program

Naples Daily News: Program offers post-9/11 veterans fitness, nutrition and counseling

By Kelly Farrell

NAPLES, Fla. - The Red Sox Foundation and their collaborators hit a home run with a free Warrior Health and Fitness Challenge program for post-9/11 veterans. The program, devised for veterans by veterans, is an eight-month program launched in June with its first group of 16 Southwest Florida veterans. The next group, which will also continue for eight months, begins the weekend after 9/11. Held at Florida Gulf Coast University, the program provides fitness, nutritional coaching, stress management and, if necessary, referrals to post-traumatic stress services, for post-9/11 veterans living in Southwest Florida.

This program hits home for me," said Warrior Health and Fitness Challenge Program Coordinator Armando Hernandez.

Hernandez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, began studying accounting at FGCU when he noticed his new sedentary, civilian lifestyle had him gaining weight and feeling terrible.

"I was just sitting down one day and I gained about 45 pounds. Of course, it didn't happen in a day, but I noticed it all at one time," Hernandez said.

He began exercising and reading about how to efficiently lose the weight.

"During this transition, I began feeling so much better, looking better, eating better, having more confidence. It started this domino effect. I wondered ‘What is it about exercise that has this effect?' " he said.

That's when he changed his major, became a certified strength and conditioning specialist and got an internship with the Boston Red Sox during spring training at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He's now giving back to other veterans with the Warrior Health and Fitness Challenge.

The idea for the program came up in a discussion among veterans during spring training and was quickly spearheaded by a longtime Naples resident, Army Four-Star General (Ret.) Frederick M. Franks Jr. Franks is an honorary board member of the Home Base Program, which provides services to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families. The program is a collaboration of FGCU, Naples Vet Center, Fort Myers Vet Center, the Red Sox Foundation and The Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program. Franks hosted fundraisers in March; Southwest Florida donors participated in a golf benefit at Kensington Golf and Country Club in Naples and a benefit dinner at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

The Warrior Health and Fitness Challenge provides supervised exercise, mandatory check-ins, nutrition counseling and wellness education that includes stress management, proper sleep requirements, breathing techniques and resources to post-traumatic stress disorder support if necessary.

"This is Southwest Florida teamwork in action for our veterans, who earned this by their selfless service for us all," Franks said.

Participants come from all over Southwest Florida, with most coming from Collier or Lee counties, including Naples, Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres, but also some driving from as far away as Alva in Lee County or Port Charlotte in Charlotte County, Hernandez said.

Theodora "Thea" Ashton, 29, of Cape Coral, a former military police officer, is in the first round of veterans meeting the Warrior Health and Fitness Challenge, and said she is seeing great results just two months into the program. Weight gain for Ashton isn't really a concern. However, having a healthy mind and body were what drove her to join the program.

"Exercise and eating right are not talked about. It's not pushed. Just, ‘Here are all of your medications.'

"I love the program. I love the idea of the program, getting into the depths of the way exercise and eating right helps with coping mechanisms for PTSD, and bringing us together," said Ashton, a psychology major specializing in PTSD at FGCU.

Old injuries in her feet had Ashton, a single working mom, months away from graduating, feeling sluggish and a bit unmotivated before joining the program.

"I was losing focus and getting back into dark places," Ashton said.

The Warrior Health and Fitness Program helped turn that around, not just in terms of her athleticism, but also with the camaraderie, she said.

"This is giving us the support that maybe we didn't notice before. Veterans — when we come back, we kind of introvert ourselves, and this has helped us to get out. Sometimes we can miss being around veterans. This gets that family back that you miss," Ashton said.

"All of us have been to boot camp, and most of us have deployed. That may be the only thing we have in common, but it's a strong bond because of the significance in our lives. It's cool to be in an atmosphere that everyone can relate (to)," Hernandez said.

Although the next session has not yet been scheduled, Hernandez hopes the program will last.

Interested veterans can contact Hernandez at ahernandez17@partners.org. More information is available at homebaseprogram.org.

Mission Gratitude a Success

 The 2014 Mission Gratitude benefit concert was a success. The event, held Veteran’s Day Eve at Boston’s Symphony Hall, is the largest benefit concert in New England supporting our wounded warriors.  

Legendary entertainer Harry Connick, Jr. was the featured performer at Mission Gratitude. Connick is known for his roles on the screen both big and small, on Broadway, and for his multiplatinum success as a singer. Connick has released 29 albums, won three Grammy Awards and two Emmy Awards and sold more than 28 million albums worldwide.

 A powerful moment during the night was when 2014 Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts took the stage as a special guest speaker. Sergeant Pitts received the nation’s highest military honor for his role in the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan. Sergeant Pitts is a Lowell, Massachusetts native who now resides in Nashua, New Hampshire. He told the crowd at Mission Gratitude about his own traumatic brain injury, something he has never before spoken about publicly.

“Often, it seems there is a perception that seeking help is a sign of weakness.  Or, that we deserve to suffer in some way because we came home and our friends did not.  I have felt both of these and neither is true," said Pitts. "There is no weakness in taking the necessary action to enjoy the freedom that we helped secure. We have earned the right to enjoy our lives and should do everything possible to remove any and all obstacles to that enjoyment.”

 In addition to the show, guests at Mission Gratitude were able to meet and take photos with Red Sox legends Tim Wakefield and Jim Rice. Governor-elect Charlie Baker was also at Symphony Hall showing his support for the cause. 

Thanks to many generous donors, Mission Gratitude raised over $1 million for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.  Home Base helps Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families recover from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury through clinical care, education and research.  Home Base serves active duty, Guard, Reserve and out-of-uniform veterans throughout New England regardless of their discharge status, insurance or ability to pay. Home Base defines family broadly and offers counseling for spouses, children, parents, siblings and girlfriends/boyfriends.

 Mission Gratitude is chaired by Jack Connors, Jr. (Chairman Emeritus of Hill Holliday and Partners HealthCare; David Ginsberg (Vice Chairman, Fenway Sports Group); Peter Slavin, MD (President Mass General Hospital); and Tom Werner (Chairman, Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Foundation).

Corporate sponsors are Covidien, Fidelity, Hanscom Federal Credit Union, John Hancock, MetLife Foundation, Southern New Hampshire University, Wal-Mart, and 1st Lt Derek Hines Soldier Assistance Fund.

“We are extremely grateful to all the sponsors and donors to Mission Gratitude for their commitment in helping us heal the invisible wounds of war for post 9/11 veterans and their families,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Jack Hammond, Executive Director of the Home Base Program. “One in three returning veterans suffers from post traumatic stress or a traumatic brain injury. By working together, we can give them the healthy future they deserve.”