Texas A&M, Former NASCAR Driver Collaborating On Disabled Veterans Center

By: kbtxnews Email
By: kbtxnews Email

Students in a Texas A&M University architecture-for-health studio have teamed up with a former NASCAR driver to design facilities for a rehabilitation camp in Virginia created especially for disabled veterans and their families.

The students' designs will be unveiled on campus at 2 p.m. Monday (Feb. 16) in the College of Architecture's Wright Gallery. The gallery is on the second floor of the Langford "A" Building.

The veterans' camp, known as "The Cove," will provide opportunities for hunting, camping, canoeing and other outdoor activities. The project is being undertaken by the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, an organization founded by Ward Burton, a 17-year veteran of the NASCAR circuit and winner of the 2002 Daytona 500.

"Many service members and their families face extreme emotional, mental and physical challenges during the many years it takes to recover from their wounds," said Burton. "The camp will be designed specifically for injured veterans and their families, using Mother Nature's natural elements to promote a positive recovery and give these families the opportunity to explore their potential."

Organizations teaming with Burton's foundation on the camp project include the Joshua Tree Foundation, a civic organization based in Florida, and The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, a group created to assist severely wounded and disabled veterans and their families.

The camp design project kicked off Jan. 26, when Burton met via a conference call with students to detail his thoughts about the various buildings he envisions on the camp's 300-acre site in southern Virginia. Burton said he wants the facility to have "a country feel" while utilizing the state-of-the-art "green" technologies and sustainable design. The complex, he said, will be anchored by a large, multipurpose building to be used for dining, socializing, conferences, group counseling and team-building activities. He wants the building to contain informational exhibits about military history and outdoor conservation.

Additionally, Burton asked for a lodge with private quarters capable of housing up to eight veterans with their families, as well as an outdoor pavilion, a garage and a barn.

"The students were encouraged to create a secure environment that conveys a sense of trust for the veterans," says George Mann, holder of the Skaggs-Sprague Endowed Chair in Health Facilities Design at Texas A&M, who oversees the students' work. "They were also asked to utilize natural materials and design with long-term sustainability in mind."

The project site, one of Burton's favorite childhood haunts, is renowned for its plentiful wildlife and majestic natural scenery, including more than eight miles along the picturesque Staunton River.

To prepare for the project and gain insight into the long-term recovery process, students visited with U.S. Army veteran Jorge DeLeon, a spokesman for The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.

While serving in Afghanistan, an anti-tank mine claimed one of DeLeon's legs and severely injured the other. His injury was followed by a lengthy recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and he now wears a computer-controlled prosthetic leg.

The architecture students also discussed post-traumatic stress disorder with Chris Colenda, dean of medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and they learned about the challenges of trauma recovery from Kathryn Kotrla, associate dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine campus in Round Rock.

Joining Mann in the direction of the architecture-for-health studio are Joseph J. McGraw, professor emeritus; Kazu Okamoto, an assistant professor and visiting scholar from the University of Tokyo and the Kajima Corporation; Ruka Okamoto, visiting scholar; Susan Rodiek, the Ronald L.
Skaggs Endowed Chair of Health Facilities Design; and Charles Culp, associate professor of architecture.

For more information about the unveiling of student designs for the disabled veterans camp, contact George Mann at 979-845-7856 or gmann@archone.tamu.edu ; or Phillip Rollfing at 979-458-0442 or prollfing@archone.tamu.edu ; or Kelli Levey at 979-845-4645 or klevey@tamu.edu.

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