Resiliency and leadership in everyday life – from taking charge of one’s health and well-being to finding meaningful work, achieving financial security, and navigating life challenges – were topics at the forefront of this year’s PVA Women Veterans Empowerment Retreat, held Sept. 30 – Oct. 3 in Orlando, Fla.
The four-day event, organized and hosted by Paralyzed Veterans of America, focused on the holistic well-being of women Veterans with spinal cord injuries or other diseases like MS and ALS. PVA, a non-profit Veterans Service Organization (VSO), provided the opportunity for women Veterans to connect, share experiences and form friendships.
“The Women Veteran’s Empowerment Retreat is an opportunity to touch base and identify needs, find solutions and share them with one another. Together we are powerful.” – Tammy Jones, PVA Vice President and Co-Chair, Anita Bloom Committee
“With a strong focus on resiliency as well as empowerment, the retreat helped build self-confidence in the attendees,” said Donna Hoffmeier, TriWest Healthcare Alliance (TriWest) Senior Vice President, Strategic Communications and Advocacy. “It also helped educate women Veterans on resources that may be available to them.”
Hoffmeier attended the gathering to support the participants and provide event logistics. TriWest, as a company committed to serving Veterans and supporting VSOs, was an event sponsor.
“Supporting this event – one that clearly enables women Veterans to stand up for themselves and be seen and heard – aligns with TriWest’s commitment of doing whatever it takes® to support the populations we serve,” Donna emphasized.
“Building self-confidence and resilience helps to reduce mental health stressors, enabling women who participated to be stronger both physically and mentally,” she shared.
Community-building in a Supportive Environment
According to PVA, the goal for the retreat was “for paralyzed women Veterans to leave the event not only with new friendships and bonds, but also information and tools they need to be leaders at home, at work, in their community, and throughout their life.”
“The Women Veteran’s Empowerment Retreat is an event developed by women for women to give them an opportunity to spend time with other women Veterans, develop new skills, and become empowered to take leadership roles and find new opportunities to use their service experiences,” said Cheryl Vines, WVER Lead, Director of Research and Education, PVA.
Tammy Jones, PVA Vice President and Co-Chair, Anita Bloom Committee, said, “PVA is proud of our women veterans, and we are interested and concerned about their unique needs. The Women Veteran’s Empowerment Retreat is an opportunity to touch base and identify needs, find solutions and share them with one another. Together we are powerful.”
The goal for this year’s Women Veteran’s Empowerment Retreat was: Empower women Veteran leaders by providing experiences, role models and resources (speakers, materials, staff) to develop leadership and advocacy skills that PVA women Veterans can use in their chapters, communities, and lives.
Thought leaders provided working sessions on whole health and independent living, nutrition, financial security, and benefits available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other topics.
In the evenings, events, games and informal dinners encouraged the paralyzed women to network and build new friendships.
“Participants quickly bonded and embraced the opportunity to engage with peers from across all military services,” Donna noted.
“The PVA staff – from the CEO and National President and Chairman of the Board on down – were personally committed to improving the lives of PVA members,” she noted. “Even more impressive was the fact that the PVA staff seemed to personally know all of the attendees. PVA is a very hands-on organization dedicated to serving Veterans with spinal cord injuries and diseases throughout their entire lives.”
Assuring Paralyzed Veteran Voices Are Heard
PVA, founded in 1946, is a non-profit VSO with a mission to advocate for paralyzed and disabled Veterans. The non-profit has deep expertise on a wide variety of issues involving the special needs of its members – including Veterans who have experienced spinal cord injury and disease.
“Its mission includes working to develop women Veterans into the leaders of tomorrow’s PVA organization,” Donna said.
PVA provides several resources for Veterans, including free webinars for women Veterans on a variety of topics, including Managing Stress, Recognizing & Utilizing Your Resilience, Adapting Physical Activity, How to Be an Effective Advocate, Empowering the Leader in You, and many more.