A generous gesture from New York

A generous gesture from New York

In a heartwarming display of support for those who served our country, the American Legion Department of New York donated $100,000 to the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation, dedicated to enhancing veterans’ therapy programs. The generous contribution promises to make a significant impact on the lives of those who sacrificed so much for the wellbeing of our nation.

New York Department Adjutant Jim Casey said the department received a sizeable gift dedicated to disabled veterans and their families in 2006. Because of that gift, the American Legion Department of New York was able to establish a grant program to support organizations directly helping veterans at risk for suicide or homelessness. Casey said the department set aside $1 million for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) therapies and $500,000 to support homeless veterans.

Since the granting program began, the department has funded several projects for PTSD and TBI therapies in New York and initiatives by other Legion Family organizations. Casey recalled a particularly emotional encounter at an equine therapy center in New York where he and several others from the Department of New York were receiving a tour. When the guide announced the end of the tour, then American Legion National Commander Jim Triola said, “Ma’am, it’s not the end of the tour — the Department of New York would like to give you $100,000.” The four women working at the equine therapy center began to cry. “It makes all of the tough days in the job worth it when we know we’ve helped someone,” Casey said.

The substantial donation to the American Legion Auxiliary Foundation comes at a critical time when the need for mental health services for veterans is more pressing than ever. The philanthropic gesture demonstrates a deep commitment to the wellbeing of those who have bravely defended our country. The funds are earmarked specifically for veterans’ therapy programs, ensuring that individuals struggling with the invisible wounds of war receive the care and support they deserve. The ALA Foundation will allocate the funds to the Veterans Creative Arts Festival (VCAF) fund, which impacts creative art therapy programs.  

Annually nationwide, veterans enrolled at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities compete in a local creative arts competition, which includes categories in the visual arts division that range from painting to leatherwork to sculpture. In addition, there are categories in writing, as well as the performing arts of dance, drama and music. The ALA Foundation supports local creative arts festivals by awarding grants to ALA entities to fund veterans’ creative arts programs in their community.

After hearing about the equine therapy donation, ALA Foundation Board of Directors President Cathe MacInnes reached out to the Department of New York to inquire about applying for a grant to allow the ALA Foundation to increase its support for the American Legion Auxiliary’s co-presentership of NVCAF and local VCAF granting program. Notification of the award was announced at the Department of New York’s 105th Mid-Winter Conference in Albany.

“It’s gratifying to know that the Department of New York American Legion is so supportive of this effort,” MacInnes said. “With 131 of the VA medical centers nationwide participating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, this donation will make a significant impact on suicide prevention among those suffering with PTSD. I cannot thank them enough.”

In announcing the grant award to the media following New York’s Mid-Winter Conference, Department Commander Timothy Collmer began a briefing by noting that the focus of The American Legion is prevention of veteran suicide.

“We have people who are willing to listen to veterans who are struggling and get them the help they need,” Collmer said about The American Legion’s Be the One mission. He added that the Department of New York also works with partners to provide direct support and assistance to veterans suffering from PTSD.

The $100,000 donation enables the integration of innovative therapeutic approaches that have shown promise in addressing the unique challenges faced by veterans. This may include programs incorporating art and music therapy practices, offering alternative avenues for healing beyond traditional counseling methods. The goal is to tailor therapy options to the diverse needs and preferences of veterans, fostering a holistic approach to mental health care.

The donation dedicated to veterans’ therapy programs represents more than a monetary contribution — it symbolizes a profound commitment the Legion Family has to the wellbeing of those who have selflessly served our nation.

“Be the One, and Be the One as big as you can,” Casey said.

About the ALA Foundation

The ALA Foundation has awarded 38 local VCAF grants totaling $76,448. Local creative arts competition top winning entries advance to a national judging process, and first, second, and third place entries are determined at the national level. First place winning veterans are invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) hosted by a different VA facility each year.

Since 2000, the ALA has co-presented NVCAF, alongside the VA. Carrying out the Auxiliary’s legacy of Service Not Self, members, units, and departments support the local competitions, the Festival, and make generous monetary donations to help carry out the event. Since 2014, the ALA Foundation has granted over $456,000 to support the ALA and VA in this endeavor.