Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Great Plains Chapter is a non-profit organization that has dedicated over 47 years to helping paralyzed veterans and their families, as well as other children and adults with disabilities across Nebraska, Western Iowa, and Kansas. They have their hand in advocating for solutions that afford equal opportunities for paralyzed veterans and other citizens living with disabilities, as well as effective healthcare for veterans living with a spinal cord injury or disease. Along with being a voice in legislation, Great Plains PVA is on the ground helping to provide necessary resources such as handicapped accessible apartment complexes located across Nebraska and the one-of-a-kind Great Plains PVA Adapted Health & Fitness Center with individualized training programs. Their mission is, “to improve the quality of life of paralyzed veterans and other individuals living with disabilities.”
While they have many amazing programs such as Wheelchair Bowling Leagues, Billiards Tournaments, Youth Summer Art Camp, and Omaha Power Soccer Club, their processes and interactions have had to adjust along with everyone else as COVID-19 hit the United States. When talking to the changes made by the organization, Amanda Vazquez, Government Relations Director of the PVA Great Plains Chapter explained, “We moved to a completely virtual format and had to re-think how we connect with our veterans and offer ways for them to connect with each other.”
All sporting activities were cancelled, along with social events and fundraising activities. The group has turned to weekly virtual chats and game days to keep the members connected. To appeal to the different ages and interests of the participants, they have tried an array of games including Jeopardy, Family Feud, Bingo, Trivia, and Wheel of Fortune. Board members continue to reach out through phone calls, and they are planning a virtual Christmas party.
When asked how we can support and better highlight Great Plains PVA, Amanda shared the following. “It is to remember our veterans this holiday season and find ways to connect with them. Many of our members do not have transportation and may live alone.” She also explained that while this year has brough much change and restructuring, it has also shown them new ways to connect to members who may not have been able to participate in past in-person events. “While we have not been able to meet in person for the majority of this year, we have been able to provide outreach and opportunities to connect with veterans who live further away and wouldn’t otherwise be able to participate in many of our programs. So, that is a silver lining in all of this. Going forward we want to continue to offer our impactful programs in person, while still work to reach veterans who may benefit from virtual connections as well.”