by Deborah Denenfeld, Director, Dancing Well: The Soldier Project
April was an exciting month for Dancing Well: The Soldier Project, which brings community dance to veterans and families affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI).
On April 10th I participated in the National Summit: Arts, Health & Well-being Across the Military Continuum at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. This was a “by invitation only” gathering of top-level individuals from government, military, veteran, education and arts organizations that work to promote healing of soldiers and veterans.
The main focus of the Summit was to encourage communication on creating policies that would lead to actions to benefit wounded soldiers and veterans across their lifetime. It was hoped that a gathering with so many stakeholders in attendance would result in policies that everyone would find beneficial.
In addition, I attended a breakout discussion session where every attendee could suggest potential policies and action-steps. I chose to attend the session on Veterans–VA Health Systems and Community-based Programs.
The hard work of the Summit was broken up by wonderful and moving performances of dance, music, song, poetry, theatre and visual arts by and about wounded warriors.
I also toured the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a Department of Defense Institute. “…With a vision of ‘hope, healing, discovery and learning,’ the NICoE is committed to providing interdisciplinary diagnostic evaluations and treatment of complex TBI and PH conditions in a family-focused, collaborative environment that promotes physical, psychological and spiritual healing.”
The center also provides family education and reintegration support and serves as a research hub by utilizing the most current technical and clinical resources to advance medical science in TBI and PH. I found it impressive that a wide variety of arts and healing modalities are being explored in this light-filled, beautiful building on the grounds of Water Reed.
During the one and one-half day summit, I had several opportunities to discuss Dancing Well with other attendees, learn about their programs and exchange contact information. I will be following up with each contact to explore collaborations or funding possibilities.
The next day I traveled into Washington, DC where I met with my congressman, Representative John Yarmuth. We discussed the work of Dancing Well and he shared names of individuals and organizations that might be interested in making financial donations to the project.
Finally, I went to the national headquarters of Wounded Warrior Project, where I was able to meet with two individuals, telling them about the work of Dancing Well and learning about grants and programs they offer that we might collaborate on.
One staff member seemed particularly impressed with the dance series I led at Fort Knox and the outcomes reported by participating soldiers and families. He had never considered offering dance to wounded warriors and seemed genuinely interested in pursuing work with Dancing Well. He took every business card I had with me to share with other staff members. I will definitely be exploring collaborating with this excellent national organization, which provides important services to wounded warriors and their families.
Last month I also finished filming the video about Dancing Well, which will be used to recruit veteran families to our dance series. I expect editing to be completed soon.
Funding is the only thing standing between veteran families affected by PTSD and TBI and the healing power of traditional community dance and music. The Country Dance and Song Society continues to be the fiscal sponsor for the project. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation today.
Thank you for your continued support!