Heroes Project: Group seeks to help disabled vets

Published on Thursday, 10 July 2014 23:05 - Written by Kelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

A nonprofit organization that aims to help honorably discharged, disabled veterans with fitness and wellness invites eligible East Texans to pursue its services.

The Dallas-based Heroes Project has been around since 2011 and provides former military members with in-home physical fitness or workout equipment.

Tyler-area resident and retired U.S. Army Major General John T. Furlow, who was recently appointed as board chairman for Heroes Project, said the goal is to address gaps in veterans’ care and help veterans be as well and productive as possible.

“Our vision is by exercising you’re improving the wellness of their life to where they maintain productive in society,” he said. “In other words, they don’t go to the side where they become a dependent of society. They become a contributor in society, and most of these individuals once they’ve been helped they have the calling of helping others, and so the idea of it is … that no … disabled veteran sacrifice is ever forgotten, whether that individual be a Vietnam (War)-era veteran or a current conflict, Global War on Terror veteran, so that’s our end result vision of being able to ensure that these individuals are back in productivity, back in society.”

Heroes Project began thanks to Texan and fallen Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, whom Furlow described as “a quiet professional in the best term of what the moniker is.”

When Kyle returned from Iraq, he was not in a good place and having hard time adjusting back to civilian life, Heroes Project Executive Director Cheramie Law said. So he pursued working out.

He went to a distributor and asked for used fitness equipment, which led to Heroes Project giving away used in-home equipment to honorably discharged, disabled veterans, Ms. Law said. Then in 2012, she said, Heroes Project was able to start giving veterans new commercial fitness equipment, like what someone might see at an apartment complex or gym.

Kyle died in 2013 at age 38. But Ms. Law said Heroes Project wants to keep his legacy alive and is now able to help more veterans than it ever has before.

Furlow said one therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder is exercise and staying active, and Kyle had a vision of helping veterans out, especially in-home.

Some veterans touched by Heroes Project are geographically distant from a lot of workout facilities, he said, and having that in-home equipment helps them out tremendously.

“We want them to get back to their normal state, and obviously working out is a part of that,” Ms. Law said.

Once a veteran is approved for services, the organization develops a plan, which includes what type of equipment to get and how it addresses their particular need, Furlow said. That equipment could be something like weight belts, weight gloves or more major fitness equipment.

If major equipment is involved, Furlow said Heroes Project takes care of delivery, does in-home installation, provides instructions on how to use the equipment, and then follows up on the equipment to ensure that the veteran is doing OK and maintain that connectivity.

He said an in-home trainer, who is a veteran, has even offered to work with the organization.

“So the aspect of developing the process is where we’re at and hardening it to where we have the complete package of items for the individual veteran and their family, of course,” he said.

Aside from the physical fitness or workout equipment, Heroes Project has helped in other ways, such as providing monthly financial support for a veteran’s exercise program and paying for a veteran’s monthly exercise club membership.

Additionally, Furlow said, Heroes Project helps sponsor camps for veterans and recently contributed equipment to the Chris Kyle Memorial Gym in Kerrville.

He encouraged eligible veterans to apply for services via the Heroes Project website.

He said an extensive vetting process is involved, and potential recipients must show proof that they were honorably discharged.

Ms. Law said veterans are chosen based on who can benefit the most.

“We’re looking for those people that are in that gap that can’t receive help through the VA (Veterans Affairs), through other places and avenues,” Furlow said.

He added, “The idea of it is we don’t want any veteran to be forgotten and overlooked.”

For more information about the Heroes Project or to request services, call Ms. Law at 903-375-2738, visit www.heroesproject.org or email info@herorsproject.com.