A Match Made in Heaven

“It’s like mixing coffee with milk,” says veteran Michael Watson of the partnership between the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. Whole Health For Life just completed its first full year in July. “It’s a match made in heaven,” says Michael or “Boston Mike” as he’s known around the Spurlino Family YMCA at Big Bend Road.


“Whole Health is the VA’s promise to assist veterans, their families, and VA employees to design and live their best life,” said Whole Health Program Manager Sebrina Posey. Tampa Y Healthy Living Director Dawn Kita describes it as eastern medicine meets western medicine. “It’s more of a holistic healing as opposed to treatment of the problem and we know things like tai chi, Pilates and yoga can help with people’s health,” says Dawn.


Mike is a volunteer for the VA’s Whole Health For Life program and recently started volunteering for the Y. He’s a former Army paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


“I’m able to bring the Whole Health program that I’m affiliated with and trained in and work with veterans here at the YMCA. In addition to that, I’m bringing myself up,” says Mike. “There’s certain things I’m not able to do because of my injuries but I am able to get on a treadmill and I get my heartrate up and it keeps my weight down and sometimes I can do light weights.”


Mike says the connection between the VA and YMCA is advantageous for veterans most importantly because of the camaraderie. “We veterans all have our own different things that we suffer from. It’s better when you have someone to help pull you to the other side sometimes. In the Army, you’re so used to working as a group,” he explains. “We do fictitious roll call every day where we text each other because some days one of us might not feel like coming in. We might be in that down spot. We might be in that dark area. So, we need a fellow veteran to say, ‘hey listen, come on, let’s go.’”


Mike explains how the partnership is an example of how the VA and the YMCA show they care about its veterans. “They really mean thank you for your service. And you don’t know how much that means to us veterans because they’re not just telling us in words – they’re telling us in actions. Which means everything in the world,” Mike says.


Through funding from the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, veterans are able to get a VA Whole Health class pass for any Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA at no cost. The pass is good for 12 weeks with the option to renew if all requirements are met and if space is available. To learn more, call 813.558.3969 or visit https://www.va.gov/patientcenteredcare/.


Pictured above:  (1) Retired Army veteran Michael Watson now spends his time volunteering for the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and the Spurlino Family YMCA. (2) Mike is a former Army paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


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