Welcome Back Veterans awards $4M in grants

Welcome Back Veterans awards $4M in grants

Welcome Back Veterans awards $4M in grants
The University of Michigan (Tigers), Emory University in Atlanta (Braves), the Red Sox Foundation and the University of California-Los Angeles (Angels) each were awarded a $1 million grant through Welcome Back Veterans and the backing of respective local clubs, Major League Baseball Charities and the McCormick Foundation announced on Thursday.

The announcement was made in advance of a big Independence Day weekend in which Major League ballparks will honor active and returning U.S. military troops. All four grants are earmarked for university hospitals that are developing programs and creating Centers of Excellence to treat veterans and their family members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

MLB Charities and the McCormick Foundation have awarded about $11 million to date for programs serving veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Major League Baseball recognizes that our men and women in the military make significant sacrifices in serving our nation every day," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We are honored to show our gratitude by committing resources to organizations that provide veterans and their family members services to treat symptoms of PTSD and TBI. I want to thank the McCormick Foundation and the clubs for supporting these four grant recipients."

"All of us at the McCormick Foundation salute our veterans who have given so much," said David Hiller, president and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. "For thousands of returning veterans, their sacrifices include visible, but often invisible wounds of war. We are proud to join with Major League Baseball in this effort to support healthcare and research to help veterans successfully return to life with their families and communities."

Michigan, whose efforts are supported by the Tigers, will receive a grant on behalf of its University of Michigan Depression Center and Department of Psychiatry -- both parts of the Welcome Back Veterans Core Center. The Core Center programs are designed to improve access to mental health treatment and reintegration resources for veterans, and to provide support, education and programs to military families throughout the deployment cycle.

The program will continue to focus on the National Guard and Reserve and their families through the Buddy-to-Buddy and Strong Families program, and its Military Family Support Forum. The Buddy-to-Buddy program is a peer-to-peer initiative that counteracts stigma so that military service members and veterans can get the help they need as they reintegrate back to civilian life. The Strong Families program is an eight-week curriculum for military parents of young children, offering skill-building in parenting, improved marital partner communication, and linkage to resources that support the family. The Military Family Support Forum is a monthly group offering support and education to all military family members throughout the deployment cycle.

The Tigers support the overall program through a partnership with the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Systems in Ann Arbor, Mich. Veterans are selected to participate in "Verlander's Victory for Veterans," a program that invites veterans who sustained injuries or illness during missions in Iraq or Afghanistan to attend a game started by Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander with their family in the personal luxury suite of Verlander. As Verlander's guests, the group is welcomed on the videoboard and receives his Victory for Veterans T-shirts.

Emory will receive a grant to establish its "BraveHeart: Welcome Back Veterans Southeast Initiative." It is an outreach, screening, assessment and services initiative supported by the Braves, and it provides services to returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families across the Southeast region. Online services will be available universally through a portal that will provide general information on issues for veterans and their families related to deployment and trauma, with content that is appropriate for all ages. It will also link to the initiative's clinical care coordinator for further support.

Throughout the season, the Atlanta Braves Foundation will assist BraveHeart with fundraising efforts, and will host veterans and their families at Braves games. Additionally, Braves players will participate in public service announcements and participate in visits to veterans hospitals and military bases.

The Red Sox Foundation is committed to raising awareness about veterans across New England. The grant will support that foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital's Home Base Program, which was jump-started by Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and developed by the team charity in conjunction with medical experts at Mass General. The Home Base Program offers confidential clinical care for New England-based veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI and PTSD, while also providing counseling and support services for their families.

The grant will support expansion of the multidisciplinary team to treat more veterans and family members and sustain their care; help to establish a telemedicine regional program to reach veterans unable to travel to Boston for treatment and to enhance clinical care for patients currently seeking care in Boston; and allow the program to further test the viability of Home Base as a national model for replication.

UCLA receives a grant on behalf of the Welcome Back Veterans/UCLA Family Resilience Center of Excellence. The program will develop, test and disseminate innovative family and community interventions that decrease the negative effects of deployment for veterans and their families coping with PTSD. It also will provide broader educational outreach to help all veteran families become more resilient against deployment and the effects of trauma. The program will build upon and expand its experience with family and couples-based PTSD intervention, trauma prevention and resilience services to develop a program adapted for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.

The Angels will support the program through center visits by Angels player alumni and inviting veterans and their families to Angels games.

Welcome Back Veterans is an MLB Charities initiative, in partnership with the McCormick Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, designed to support returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in helping them make a successful transition to civilian life. The program is supported by MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network.

Welcome Back Veterans grants have gone to nonprofit agencies targeting veterans and their families' greatest needs, focusing on treatment and research of PTSD and TBI. This program has been designed to augment existing efforts of the government's Veterans Administration and Department of Defense, thus creating a true private/public partnership.

Funds have been contributed from MLB, including those raised from auctions of game-used products and the donation of sales from Stars & Stripes merchandise. All MLB clubs are wearing Stars & Stripes caps for the fourth consecutive year during this Independence Day weekend, as part of Major League Baseball's national fundraising and awareness initiatives for Welcome Back Veterans.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. You also can leave comments on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.