November is National Veterans and Families Month. It is a time to commemorate our nation’s dedicated military heroes and honor their sacrifices, such as the extended periods of family separation, isolation, and physically grueling days. But the sacrifice does not immediately stop once a service member is discharged, especially for veterans who were wounded in action. According to the National Library of Medicine, almost seven percent of military personnel develop a moderate to severe physical disability while serving.
In 2014, US Army Sergent and quadruple amputee Travis Mills met David Vobora, a 5-year- NFL veteran. Sergent Mills shared his story with Vobora, who offered Mills training sessions at his personal gym. The pair curated custom workouts that helped Travis face the unique challenges due to his injuries. Eventually, Travis was able to adapt to his injuries and became a recalibrated warrior, and David realized he wanted to bridge the gap between basic functional rehabilitation and adapted sport.
David opened Adaptive Training Foundation and, over the next six months, pursued his mission to create sustainable lifestyle changes for adaptive athletes. By September 2014, ATF received its 501c3 status, allowing external forms of support and sponsorships for its adaptive athletes.
The most common injuries the veterans Adaptive Training Foundation works with are amputations, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. Dedicated trainers help ATF’s adaptive athletes maximize their capabilities and redefine their features, rather than focusing on their limitations. With an army of support, trust, and renewed autonomy, Adaptive Training Foundation has shifted the paradigm from defining oneself through a lens of impairment to one that is filled with possibility.
Almost 10 years later, the Dallas-based gym still provides 100% free programs to empower individuals with physical impairments through exercise and community. They offer three programs: Redefine, Adaptive X, and Hyper Training. Their flagship program, called Redefine, is a 9-week program that provides athletes “customized training with a group of  individuals experiencing similar struggles. Not only do athletes receive physical training, but they receive tools to redefine their sense of self through mindfulness and mental training”. At the end of those 9 weeks, all athletes put their newfound abilities to the test when they participate in a week-long redeploy trip. The trip involves adaptive recreational sports such as skiing, snowboarding, surfing, mountain climbing, biking, water sports, and rock climbing. Adaptive X is for alumni of the Redefine program who want to continue the momentum. It meets five times a week and has 52 community activities per year. Lastly is the Hyper Training program, which ATF claims will be “the most intense 10 days of your life”, with a full schedule of 60 hours of training, 20 workouts, and 1 mission.
Depending on the program, it costs anywhere between $5,000 – 10,000 to sponsor just one athlete. Therefore, ATF relies on the generosity of independent donors and sponsorships to not only help restore lives, but to also empower their athletes while doing so.
“At ATF, we believe every human has the right to be seen, feel heard, and to fully belong. Although we invite our athletes to come as they are, we don’t expect them to stay that way.” –David Vobra, Founder of Adaptive Training Foundation
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