DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Recreational therapy is a crucial outlet for veterans at the Dayton VA Medical Center. For one veteran, he says the activities saved his life.

Philip Kearney has bowled at various times throughout his life. A Vietnam era veteran, he got back into it as a way to cope. “I got into a depression and a friend of mine, he talked to me about the wheelchair games,” said Kearney.

He said the games gave him and his wife many unique opportunities and special memories of time spent together. “I mean, we’ve done things and went places that we probably would’ve never went,” said Kearney. 

Recreational therapy offers something for everyone at the Dayton VA, including games, physical activities, creative arts like woodworking, and music therapy. Jennifer Fultz, recreational therapy supervisor at the medical center, said the goal is to help veterans revive old hobbies or try something different. 

“It doesn’t matter where they’re at ability-wise, we’re able to help them continue doing the things that they used to enjoy doing or perhaps even learn something new,” said Fultz.

Fultz is also the lead coach for the center’s team that participates in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. In 2021, six veterans traveled to New York City, bringing home 10 gold, nine silver and one bronze medal. 

Kearney was one of three veterans who participated in the at-home events like bowling. He says the games holds new meaning now for him, a few years after his wife died. “And her last words to me was ‘please stay in the games,’” said Kearney. 

Kearney said he started to give up on the games, but a long conversation with Fultz helped change that. “She’s got me involved in a lot of things,” said Kearney. “Which is keeping me going now.”

“When I have my veterans come in and telling me that they feel good about themselves because of what they’re doing, that’s what it’s all about and I wouldn’t change anything for the world,” said Fultz.