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FRIDAY FOCUS – Southern Maryland Vacation for Vets (V4V)

Veterans who have served our Country sometimes come home wounded or depressed, and integrating back into society can be a challenge. Recovery is a long road and can mean considerable amount of time spent in a hospital or Center. Vacation for Vets (V4V) helps alleviate the challenges by offering Veterans and their families a weekend retreat to enjoy relaxing time with loved ones. Learn more about how Vacation for Vets serves our Veterans in this week’s Friday Focus.
Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.).
Our organization serves recovering service members and their families by offering weekend retreats to those undergoing treatment at local military hospitals and VA centers. Recovery is based on many factors, and one of those factors is family time. We have families that travel from different states just to spend the weekend with their service member away from the hospital setting.  Some of the service members haven’t seen their families in months—the costs associated with visiting are just too high. We supply all lodging, food and entertainment for all guests. We host 3 events a year; weather permitting, we take them boating, tubing and kayaking. We also take them to local organizations for tours and entertainment and invite public groups to come out and give demos. Past participants have included: the Pax Aero Flyers (remote control planes), search and rescue dog team demos, Superheroes of Southern Maryland, local fire departments and Clydesdale horse carriage rides. We also bring out professional face painters and scrap bookers, and we’ve done Mary Kay facials, chair massages and more. In addition to the recovering service members weekend retreats, we also host our Charlotte Hall Veterans 4 times a year.  Typically, our events are one-day events, but on occasion we do overnight events.  In 2017, we served 102 Veterans and 147 family members.
Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?
My most favorite moment was when a double amputee, Juan, said to me “Miss Connie, I thought I would be sitting in my chair all day bored, but I didn’t. I can do everything, I didn’t know I could still do those things.”  He was very emotional and patting his chest while he spoke.  He kayaked by himself, he drove a golf cart by himself and he went tubing by himself.  Of course, we had 2 medics close by at all times, but given the chance, he was able to participate in all the activities.
Q: What is your biggest challenge? 
Our biggest challenge is the turnover rate of guests. When I receive the list from the hospital of guests that are cleared to attend, it will have about 35 service members’ names on it. By the time I am done calling them all, the list is in half. The week before the event, the list is even smaller. Because of their injuries or illness, the doctors will often remove them from the list at the last minute, creating a void that is almost impossible to fill on short notice.  At this point, the meals, lodging and activities have all been reserved, so we start contacting other agencies to see if they have someone to come at the last minute.
Of course, another challenge is the financial side. The typical weekend retreat costs approximately $10,000, depending on the number of guests and any special needs that need to be met. If you wish to make a donation, we have a PayPal option on our website, or via Facebook or donors can send a check payable to So. Md. Vacation for Vets and mail to the address below. The donation can be claimed on your MD taxes. We will send you a thank you letter with our EIN on it for tax purposes.
So. Md. Vacations for Vets
22673 Pops Way
California MD 20619
Q: How can people get involved with your organization?
Our website, vac4vets.org, has a volunteer application on it. Once it is completed, just send it to me and we will do a background check before releasing any information about upcoming events. It is in our agreement with the hospitals and treatments centers that we do not release the dates the service members will be here to the public—those dates are only released to volunteers who have passed the background check and the service providers.