Wheels4Change (Whees4Change.org,) a 501c3 charity, support veterans by providing fitness opportunities to increase physical and psychological health, and link to other resources to increase quality of life. We strive to operate with integrity, vigilance, transparency and compassion with the mission to help U.S. veterans achieve their fullest potential as productive members of society with endless possibilities and meaningful lives.
WHAT WE DO
Wheels4Change uses fitness to connect with veterans and raise community awareness about the changes veterans face, as well as increases community awareness of these that have made the supreme sacrifices. We connect with veterans who may be unable, unwilling or simply unsure how to use traditional support services, which are not always available when needed.
Via our “give back” program, which allows transitional and emergent veterans to earn a bicycle and other fitness-oriented opportunities through service work, we are able to communicate with them regularly, assess their needs and address those needs on a one-to-one basis. Veterans say it’s a natural, non-judgmental environment in which to create a new life at a comfortable pace. In short, we let the veteran lead us, to show us what he or she needs to move forward into a more productive life.
We’ve successfully supported previously homeless veterans to run and bike in distance races (including marathons), eat healthfully, support in finding meaningful employment, attend college and learn more effective life skills.
The bicycles they earn through service are used as transportation for such essentials as job hunting and grocery shopping, as well as for relaxation and fitness.
If the veteran is interested in furthering his or her education, we can help link with community partners, the possibilities – from vocational training to traditional four-year colleges. We help link with community resources that will step-by-step support to the veteran who needs or wants additional education to build a self-sufficient life.
A vital part of our mission is to honor the heroes who have fallen in battle while raising awareness of the difficulties faced by veterans when they return to civilian life.
Until the Vietnam War, the psychological effects of military life such as depression, substance abuse, panic attacks and flashbacks were known as “shell shock” – a syndrome thought to fade naturally in time.
Thankfully, today we understand much more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and its devastating (and sometimes fatal) consequences if left untreated
In one federal study, one in four veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported symptoms of a mental or cognitive disorder; one in six reported symptoms of PTSD. These disorders are strongly associated with substance abuse and dependence, as are other problems experienced by returning military personnel, including sleep disturbances, traumatic brain injury, and violence in relationships.
Young adult veterans are particularly likely to have substance use or other mental health problems. According to a report of veterans in 2004-2006, a quarter of 18- to 25-year-old veterans met criteria for a past-year substance use disorder, which is more than double the rate of veterans aged 26-54 and five times the rate of veterans 55 or older (National Institute on Drug Abuse. Substance Abuse in the Military)
One truly astounding number is this: 22 veterans and one active duty personnel commit suicide each day in this country. More veterans have committed suicide since returning home from duty in the Middle East than have been killed in combat there since 9/11. Our Ride for the 23, an annual cycling and walking event, heightens public awareness of the epidemic of military-related suicides and raises funds for veterans in danger of harming themselves.
Why We Do It
We help veterans who are unable, for a variety of reasons, to seek assistance elsewhere. Mental health problems, including addiction, are considered diseases by the medical establishment. However, many symptoms associated with behavioral illnesses –including domestic violence, drunk driving and drug use – have major legal and social consequences, unlike the symptoms of, say, heart disease or diabetes. Because of the zero tolerance policy put in place by the Department of Defense (DOD) and enforced by random drug tests, most addicts are extracted from active service with other-than-honorable discharges or even criminal charges. They leave the military without the benefits of honorably discharged personnel. (National Institute of Drug Abuse) They face financial hardships in addition to their psychological and addiction-related problems. They are often stymied in their hunt for a job because of their discharge status, as well as any legal charges they may have garnered. That often leads to deeper depression, more complex psychological issues, self-isolation and increased substance abuse. The cycle goes until many of our brave veterans are reduced to death or homelessness.
The number of homeless veterans on a given night in Summit County Ohio nearly doubled from 2010 to 2013, according to the U.S. government’s “Point in Time” report, which measures homelessness in a random 24-hour period. Although the numbers have dropped slightly since then because of President Obama’s determined effort on that front, veterans without a home are still legion.
On any given night, about 50,000 veterans of the U.S. military have no place to rest their heads. About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness.
At Wheels4Change, we’re working hard to change things, by reaching out to vets directly, improving their health and self-esteem through physical fitness and assessing their skills for job training and placement through our bike program. But we need your help to move forward.
Mission Statement: Honor Our Fallen Heroes, Support Military Families and Serve Our Veterans. We will accomplish these goals by providing outreach, education and awareness to veterans and their families whose lives have been impacted by military trauma. Our focus is on local change in order to make a national impact.
Vision Statement: Our vision is to Honor Our Fallen Heroes, Support Military Families and Serve Our Veterans by:
Outreach: Linking local veterans and their families with resources to address post-military problems and provide them with support, including employment, fitness and motivational opportunities to help them successfully reintegrate into their local communities and assist them in the rehabilitation process.
Education: Sharing information in the schools, libraries, local groups, businesses and the general community about the sacrifices made by and the needs of the veterans and their families.
Awareness: Increasing awareness of our programs and services, including fundraisers, and cycling and fitness events in order to support our mission.