National Veterans Affairs Summer Sports Clinic – Surfing With Octavia

photo of Octavia Mitchell at La Jolla

Octavia Mitchell rests on La Jolla Beach after surfing at the VA Summer Sports Clinic

Surfing in La Jolla is only one of the challenging events that Veterans experience when they come to a National Veterans Affairs Summer Sports Clinic. Other sports include track and field, kayaking, sailing, rowing and cycling, plus more. The event this year was held in San Diego, California from September 18-23, 2011. The theme, “Setting Your Course for the Future,” solidifies the experiences and opportunities Veterans are given to learn about adaptive recreation to complement their traditional therapies, and to gain both physical and mental confidence.

It was on the shores of La Jolla beach where we met Octavia Mitchell, a US Army Veteran. Octavia suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. She had just come out of the water from surfing, and gave us an exhilarating interview about her experiences of being disabled, and how much she enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the VA Sports Clinic this year.

“We are proud we served…now serve yourself again,” Octavia wants to say to anyone contemplating attending the VA sport clinics. She says “I am the same woman that you are, and I want people to see me that way.”  That is one of the many reasons why she came to the clinic and participated in these sports, because it makes her feel like she can perform activities just the same as others without physical disabilities.

Octavia thanks the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, and states they have helped her tremendously by recommending she attend the VA Sports Clinic. She is very thankful for their services and resources they afforded to her. She has attended other VA sport camps in 2008, as well as the wheelchair games. She believes it makes such a difference to go to these events, and by doing so, she has had the opportunity to go horseback riding, skiing, scuba diving, rock climbing and now surfing.

She also put a shout out to the wonderful team leaders and volunteers at this VA Sports Clinic whose attentiveness made her feel very safe while trying new these activities.  She said that when she was out there surfing, it was a time for her to reflect on what it means to be able to perform an activity that she thought she could never do because of her disability. But after getting to know Octavia there on the beach at La Jolla, I am convinced there is not much she would say she can’t do! I truly admired her resolve and determination, and was glad that I had the opportunity to get to know her.

Do you know an eligible Veteran who may be interested in attending future VA Clinics? Please share Octavia’s inspiring story of courage so they might also be motivated to consider the possibilities and achieve their full potential.