It’s Brooke Ciampaglio, an athlete participating in the VCAT program this fall. I am a freshman here at Delaware and I am part of the women’s lacrosse team, and I absolutely love VCAT! When I found out about the program this past summer, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. I felt like it was something I needed to do, that it was calling to me. And now here I am, participating in this life changing program which has exceeded all my expectations. This program is impacting the lives of all our athletes and veterans, and I am positive I can say on behalf of everyone here at VCAT, we are all grateful for this program’s existence. I couldn’t help but wonder how a program like this was created, which got me inspired to dig around. So here I am, informing you all about the humble beginnings of this wonderful program.
The seeds of VCAT were planted in the back of our project director, Susan Sheehy’s, mind way back in 2013. She was at Uniform Services University, working directly with the wounded warriors. At a basketball game which all the warriors attended, Susan asked a warrior with which she was particularly close with if he was excited to go home after his 2 year treatment at Uniform Services. She was appalled when his immediate reply was no. After asking how this could possibly be, he said “Everyone here gets me. We kick each other’s butt’s, no one lets anyone feel sorry for themselves here. What is going to happen when I get home?” Now this conversation stayed with Sheehy for some time, feeling the need to provide some sort of solution for this problem of adjusting back into society many veterans face. She discussed with two of her closest friends, who happened to be marathon runners and wounded warriors, and questioned a place that all veterans could access all over the nation. The first thought was YMCA’s, but they decided this wouldn’t work. Colleges was the next suggestion, but they agreed school was not for everyone. But, what if the veterans went to the colleges to work out? What finally sold the idea was the presence of a student athlete. Pairing off a veteran with a collegiate athlete to workout would be the key to this program.
Sheehy went to Boston for a year in 2016 with a grant from the Wounded Warrior Project, and began the Collegiate Warrior Athlete Initiative at Boston College. Our very own project coordinator and trainer, Leah Settipane, was part of the original group for the Initiative. While taking a course in Victimology, the teacher of the class advertised the Initiative, and Settipane jumped right in. She was attracted to the health and wellness program and being able to help others who have served our country inspired her to put her application in right away. The first group was comprised of 11 wounded warriors over the course of the year. There was a 15 pound weight loss over the board for the warriors, and the warriors reported they were happier, they had better sleeping habits, and they were taking less and less medication. This was HUGE! 😊 How great are these results? Sheehy hired Settipane as the project coordinator for the summer, but unfortunately after funding stopped, the program came to an end. Yet, this is not a sad ending, but a grand beginning. University of Delaware had faculty positions opened, and Sheehy called, explained the Initiative, and Delaware decided to home the beginnings of a new project, Veterans and College Athletes Together. Settipane, who had moved to England to play field hockey and finish her Masters, was called by Sheehy. Taking a leap of faith and courage, Settipane moved to Delaware where initially, she knew no one. How great and wonderful and scary is this? Together, the two created VCAT, which began this September, 2019. The overall vision of VCAT is to have a local community where veterans can come to after they come home from deployment, where they can find health, wellness, and a sense of belonging. VCAT prevents isolation, and reconnects veterans with their community, assisting the adjustment back to an everyday life in society. Having this program accessible to all veterans all over the nation, in hopes of providing health and wellness services to those that served our country… This my friends, is the goal of VCAT. The team and I are so extremely excited to take part in this program, with high hopes of reaching this end goal. I hope to update you with the inside scoop of our program, our workout groups, and all the fun we are having while working hard together.
Brooke Ciampaglio 😊