Many of us take the freedom to travel on our own schedule for granted. It becomes second nature to jump in our personal vehicle and drive to our favorite places whenever we get the urge. But for some of our nation’s heroes, injuries sustained while defending our freedoms cause them to lose the ability to operate a standard motor vehicle, making it difficult to carry out their daily routine.
In 2015, Hope For The Warriors started the Drive For Hope program, which was originally implemented to connect service members, veterans, and their families to NASCAR events across the country to help with boosting morale and networking. After talking with the military community and gaining a better understanding of their needs, we decided to revamp the program to leave a more lasting impact.
Recognizing a gap within the military and VA systems for adaptative vehicles and the proper training to operate them safely, we re-focused our efforts. In 2019, we partnered with the Driver Rehab Center of Excellence (DRCE) in Chantilly, VA. We began our journey of restoring individuality and driving independence in the military community through Drive For Hope.
DRCE is a civilian organization that started at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2008. To date, it is the first and only comprehensive driving program in the Department of Defense designed to help wounded warriors who have adaptive mobility needs.
The partnership between HOPE and DRCE has been instrumental in addressing some of the most critical needs of our warrior community.
“If a service member sustains an injury during service, whether it be loss of limb, a traumatic brain injury, or PTSD, they may need vehicle modifications to drive safely,” said Drive For HOPE Case Manager Taylor Sturgill. “We aim to fill the gap in service and financial assistance to make this happen. We work with certified driving instructors to complete an evaluation of needs, make the necessary modifications, and even provide the training needed to operate the vehicle.”
Since March 2019, Drive For Hope has worked with 76 veterans, 55 of whom received direct financial assistance totaling $116,109.08.
“This is a very needs-specific program,” said Taylor. “We can connect with the military community about driving rehab in a way that makes them feel comfortable. It can be hard to find support, and we want our warrior families to know that we are here and understand their needs. We want to grow as they grow and hopefully provide a well-rounded amount of support by refereeing recipients to other programs and services within HOPE.”
Criteria for Program
- Post-9/11 service member
- Injury does not need to be combat-related, just meets the qualification for driving rehabilitation need
- Medical referral from a provider
If you or a loved one are interested in learning more about how Drive For Hope can help you regain your driving independence or learn about additional programs designed to meet your needs, please click here to connect to services.