By Kathryn G. Morris, Public Affairs Office
Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean that the holiday spirit has left us. Every January, the Knights of Columbus and other local organizations visit patients of the Martinsburg VA Medical Center to offer the warmth of a new sweat suit and a friendly hello. In 2007, Frank Nauer and Phil Rusciolelli began the Sweats for Vets program as part of an effort for the Knights of Columbus in Sterling, Va., to support the medical center’s Voluntary Service.
Recently, 46 volunteers from several participating organizations delivered 500 new sweat suits to hospitalized Veterans at the medical center. Although the program’s original purpose was to provide disabled Veterans sweat suits as Christmas gifts, a severe snow storm in 2009 pushed back distribution to January, and the program coordinators realized visiting patients after New Years was better. “The storm was actually a good thing,” said Nauer, “because Veterans don’t get as many visitors after the holidays.”
Associate Medical Center Director Tim Cooke was present to thank everyone who helped, including those who donated, sorted and wrapped, transported or delivered the sweat suits to patients. “During this time of the year when the weather is so cold, Veterans need our support,” said Cooke. “The Sweats for Vets program provides the warmth of our community’s gratitude to our Nation’s Heroes.”
Medical center staff escorted volunteers and their families to different areas of the hospital to ensure that patients received both a new pair of sweats and a “thank you” for their service. “I think everyone would agree the highlight of the day was visiting with the Veterans,” said Nauer.
Since the program’s beginning, Sweats for Vets has donated over 2,000 sweat suits to Veterans. This year included donations from:
- Knights of Columbus, councils and assemblies in Sterling, Potomac Falls, Winchester, Leesburg, Purcellville and Chantilly, Va.
- Veterans of Foreign Wars, post in Leesburg, Va. and Ladies Auxiliary in Berryville, Va.
- American Legion, post in Purcellville, Va.
- Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America, Leesburg, Va.
- Towns of Purcellville and Leesburg, Va.
- Loudoun County High School, Leesburg, Va.
- Loudoun Valley High School, Purcellville, Va.
- St. Thomas A. Beckett Catholic Church, Reston, Va.
- Retail Stores in Leesburg, Va.: Cloud Nine Salon & Spa, Reebok Store, Leesburg Premium Outlets and Star GMC/Buick