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HISTORY OF CAMO

 

In 1995, Challenge Aspen was granted 501(c)3 non-profit status with the mission of “Making Possibilities for People with Disabilities”.   In 2005,  specialized programming was introduced to serve the increasing number of newly injured soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).  This new division of Challenge Aspen was named Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities (CAMO).

In it’s first year, CAMO introduced two adaptive recreational programs, one in the winter and one in the summer – hosting a total of 20 injured military personnel. In 2006, the program was expanded to three; each year since has seen an increase in the number of retreats offered.  In 2014/15 we hosted 18 retreats total:  six during the summer and twelve during the winter.   We are exceptionally proud that in each successive year, CAMO has increased the numbers of participants served – with 2014/15 being the best year ever!  In the 2014/15 season, CAMO was able to host 162 injured military personnel, their caregivers and/or spouses.

In the beginning years, the focus was on newly injured soldiers transitioning back to civilian life .  The idea was to re-introduce physical exercise in the beautiful Rocky Mountains as a necessity for mental and physical health; and in the larger scheme and longer term, an absolute necessity for re-entry into civilian life. That focus proved very successful.  As the nature of the war on terror has changed, so has our focus:  CAMO recognizes the more subtle, invisible wounds suffered by injured soldiers.  We recognize too the devastating effects of a post-deployment disability on the spouse and family. In 2014 we created an inaugural program created specifically for couples where either one or both members is military personnel diagnosed with physical or cognitive challenges. The programs provide an opportunity for couples to share in the adaptive recreational experience with the aim of rebuilding the relationship and sharing that experience with other couples in similar situations.

What does the future hold for CAMO?  We see ourselves as the premier adaptive recreational organization in the country providing opportunities to any service member disabled in any United States conflicts past or present.  We would like to build on the success of the Couples Retreats with the creation of similar programs that include the entire family.  We dream of creating year-round programs in Aspen/Snowmass with an eye on bringing the model to communities throughout the United States.

Currently, there is little government funding for these types of programs, and Challenge Aspen is one of only a few organizations offering this type of recreational therapy. We strive to reach out to businesses, grant-makers and individuals who share our mission of “Making Possibilities for Military Personnel with Disabilities.

 

Challenge Aspen remains committed to veterans, and through Challenge Aspen and CAMO, veterans and their family will experience ongoing support and life-long possibilities.

For more information, contact John Klonowski at 970.923.0578, or john@challengeaspen.org.