Giving Veterans a Lift – Literally and Figuratively

nonprofit that helps combat-wounded vets get fit could use a local chapter

Justine Childs

’Tis the season. For cookies and carols. For decking the halls and wrapping presents. For school programs and family gatherings. For many it is also the season for giving, the season for charity. There are a multitude of charities raising their voices and competing for your donations, and many are very honorable and deserving. One in particular that has been listed as a top nonprofit in both 2015 and 2016 by GreatNonProfits.org is Catch A Lift, or CAL.

As we go about our holiday merriment – shopping and wrapping and spending time with family and friends – keep in mind who we have to thank for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted and how we can show our gratitude for the sacrifices of our service members by helping them regain mental and physical health through fitness.

Catch A Lift was founded in 2010 by Lynn Coffland in memory of her best friend and brother, Army Cpl. Chris Coffland, who was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan in 2009. Chris believed that through fitness we can reach our highest potential both mentally and physically, a belief he practiced as a lifter and lifelong fitness buff. As he went to the gym, he would say that he was going to “catch a lift.”

The Catch A Lift Fund helps post-9/11 combat wounded veterans all over the U.S. recover, rehabilitate, and reintegrate through physical fitness by providing them with gym memberships, in-home gym equipment, personalized fitness programs and a peer-to-peer support network.

As a chapter coordinator and one of the peer-to-peer supporters, former Army Sgt. Jason Wehmhoefer, of Kenosha, describes how rewarding it is to help vets achieve their fitness goal. “It is so rewarding to hear people tell me how much I have helped change their lives through fitness,” he said. “I also like the fact that we can bring our members together as a community, talk and get a workout done together. I love that we are helping our members feel like they are improving both their mental and physical health.”

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Major has been a beneficiary of CAL for the past 2½ years after learning about the program from his dentist. Major lost both legs and digits on both hands when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq in 2006. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and has described the camaraderie of socializing with other vets going through the same trials as the biggest benefit of CAL, as well as not having to worry about the financial burden of a gym membership. Through workouts at the gym, Ryan has been able to greatly reduce the amount of medications he takes as well as cope with depression and PTSD. “CAL has given me purpose again so I can live my life in a way that I can thrive,” he said.

Explains founder Lynn Coffland: “My brother would be really proud to know that he helped do that, through his death – that ‘pain to purpose,’ he used to say.”

I happened to be in Washington, D.C., running a race with a friend when I met Lynn Coffland. I sat in at a lunch where she was discussing the mission of CAL and her desire to help more veterans. Her devotion and passion to CAL was evident, as was her personal commitment to the program and the members she serves.

Catch A Lift has helped more than 3,000 wounded vets, some experiencing weight loss of 40 pounds or more and several reducing medications from 20 to only two or three. There are currently 34 members in Wisconsin, and 20 more on the waiting list. Considering the many vets in our area who could benefit from the program, we could really use a chapter in Eau Claire if someone (or several someones) stepped up!

Ninety percent of every donation to the Catch A Lift Fund goes directly to purchasing gym memberships and in-home gym equipment for America’s post-9/11 wounded veterans while placing them in programs and squads that will help them heal vet-to-vet.

And with more than 500 veterans on the waiting list nationwide, your support is more urgent than ever. You can become a corporate sponsor, you can make a donation in any amount to Catch A Lift, or you can sponsor a vet you are personally paired up with for a year and offer support and encouragement through their chapter coordinator.

As we go about our holiday merriment – shopping and wrapping and spending time with family and friends – keep in mind who we have to thank for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted and how we can show our gratitude for the sacrifices of our service members by helping them regain mental and physical health through fitness.

To learn more, visit Catchaliftfund.com, call 1-855-GYM-4VET, or email lynn@catchaliftfund.com.