Thoughts on Compassion: Diversion Therapy for Wounded Troops

Thoughts on Compassion is an initiative of GivingMail’s team of fundraising experts. We want to highlight the amazing work of nonprofits that we love in our community. Join their cause. Be part of the change.

Monterey Bay Veterans Inc. (MBV) “Sports Rehab Center” began in California in 1987 with the first Wheelchair Salmon Derby.  The idea for this derby came from a spinal cord rehabilitation patient, who was undergoing treatment at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration hospital.  His idea became a reality after rigorous efforts by the disabled veterans themselves, Veterans Administration staff and the work of a Monterey Bay Veterans core committee. Together they devised a plan to bring spinal cord patients to Monterey for a day of fishing.   The effort was a complete success and resulted in the committee meeting with doctors and rehabilitation therapists to discuss the program value and establishing an annual event.  With V. A. medical professionals’ approval and support for this therapy approach, all Veterans Administration Medical Centers in California were included for the 1988 Derby.  

The Derby grew rapidly and by 1991 the organization was formalized as a non-profit to provide the necessary funding for the Derby and a growing number of services.  The organization was the first of its kind to provide these types of recreational rehabilitation services for disabled veterans.  The Derby served as a model of recreational “diversion therapy” and was the pilot program for the many programs that followed.  

In 2021, they celebrated the 34th Annual Wheelchair Fishing Derby.  The two annual derbies now host hundreds of participants annually.  Including the derbies, MBV provides services for over 5,000 individuals a year.

Since its inception with the first Derby, the organization has expanded to incorporate other recreational marine activities and provides services to nonveterans who have a 40% or greater disability. Though based in Monterey, California, the tens of thousands who have benefitted from MBV services come from throughout the Central Coast, the State of California and the whole of the United States.

While the organization is already having a tremendous impact throughout California, the ultimate goal is to be able to spread this program nationally. “Our limitations are not self-imposed, nor restricted by the demographics of our served groups. Our ability to reach additional participants is only limited by the amount of funding we are able to generate. The organization is solely funded through private and corporate donations and grants, and through volunteer-based fundraising efforts.”

(Excerpt from MBV)

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