Soldier On: Recovering Through Sport

In November of 2018, JWC announced its commitment to donating $25,000 to Soldier On, in honour of Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces. This donation to support Soldier On’s initiatives will aid in providing ongoing support to the Canadian Armed Forces and Veteran community.

Through various programs, activities, and events, Soldier On’s members are provided with opportunities to develop new skills, build confidence, and develop a support system of peers who have similar backgrounds and experiences.

Here at JWC, we had the opportunity to catch up with Joe Kiraly, a decorated Canadian Veteran, who works within the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, to learn more about Soldier On and how they are helping make a difference in veterans’ lives through organized events, activities, and sports.

Q: How did the Soldier On organization get started?

Joe Kiraly: Soldier On originated during the Afghanistan War, as a joint venture of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, building on the historic roots of the Paralympic movement and using sport as part of recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. Soldier On was set up as a program of the Canadian Armed Forces in 2007.

Q: How much has your organization grown since those early days?

JK: We have had tremendous success, and as our operational successes have grown, so has our outreach. In our 11-year history, we have now helped close to 5,000 individuals realize the positive power that sport can have in their recovery. This has been accomplished primarily through participation in our introductory camp experiences and through our equipment grant processes; as well as, to a lesser degree, through high profile international sporting events and in supporting individual’s high-performance sport aspirations.

Q: Soldier On provides sporting and recreational equipment to veterans. What are some of the ways that this helps those in need of support?

JK: This equipment support helps offset the cost and reduces barriers to achieving an active lifestyle. Recreational equipment, particularly adaptive sports equipment can be expensive, so it’s important to make it more achievable for our members. Our end state, or mission success, can be said to have been met when we see our members connected to their sport within their community and living “active for life”.

Q: Are there any services or programs that Solder On offers that you wish veterans knew more about?

JK: I would encourage any CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) member or veteran with a permanent/chronic illness or injury (visible or non-visible) to connect and register with Soldier On. By doing so, they will be able to attend some of our events, reconnect with their peer group and discover new ways of staying active despite adversity. For people wishing to support Soldier On, I’d like them to know that Soldier On is the most direct way of supporting ill/injured CAF members and Veterans. As a CAF program, close to 100% of every donated dollar goes directly towards our mandate.

Q: What is your biggest fundraising event?

JK: Soldier On is supported by many grassroots initiatives. The generosity of Canadians, and their collective passion, enables Soldier On to make such a positive difference. Our biggest fundraising event over the years has been the Canada Army Run, which raises approximately $250K annually for Soldier On. This race occurs in September every year.

Q: Since Solder On is based out of Ottawa, is there a way for people to get involved, or seek support from your organization?

JK: Soldier On, while headquartered in Ottawa, offers our support to eligible participants across the country. They can reach out to Soldier On via our website at www.soldieron.ca. Additionally, they can walk in to their nearest Canadian Armed Forces Transition Centre for assistance in connecting with us at Soldier On!

Q: Lastly, what is one of your proudest moments working with Soldier On?

JK: For me, every time I am lucky enough to get out to one of our events and watch these passionate, resilient men and women rediscover their inner strength, build bonds with friends, and get new tools to “Soldier On”, it makes me feel so proud to be involved with this small but highly effective program. Additionally, as I have struggled with my own injuries, I take tremendous inspiration and strength from getting to know many of our participants and how they have overcome their own challenges.

If you, or someone you know could benefit from the support programs offered by Soldier On, you can visit their website, www.soldieron.ca, or find them on social media. You can also email them at soldieron-sanslimites@forces.gc.ca, or call them toll-free at 1-800-883-6094.