Community Spotlight: Valley Associates for Independent Living

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 11:15 AM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Since 2000, Valley Associates for Independent Living also known as ‘VAIL’, has helped people of all ages with cognitive, sensory, and physical disabilities. Staff and volunteers provide help and connection to resources with education, employment, and accessibility.

“We’re working with individuals with disabilities to live independently, in the community and we also work with our communities to remove barriers to independence,” Gayl Brunk, executive director of VAIL said.

From Harrisonburg to Buena Vista, VAIL provides help to over 500 residents with disabilities navigate daily life.

Since VAIL is a Center for Independent Living, 51% of both staff and board members have disabilities themselves, which they say ensures services are centered around those they serve.

“One of the challenges for individuals that live with a physical disability is accessible housing. Transportation for individuals that do not have the opportunity to drive independently remains a top priority,” Brunk said.

Brunk says VAIL has seen an increase in requests for help from younger community members who have questions about transitioning to living independently and those looking for social and recreational activities.

Doug Galica, a board member for VAIL and a member of the Harrisonburg Cardinals, the organization’s first adaptive sports program, says he has gained so much from being connected to the team.

“It’s just been really good to have that in my life. The exercise, the camaraderie, everything about the team and just having that outlet here locally is just amazing,” Galica said.

On top of being a part of the team, Galica says VAIL has helped him in other aspects of his life and says he knows they can help others too.

“Mentorship or just learning about grants or programs to help navigate life, in general, would be a big benefit for those newly injured or have been injured for a long time that they just didn’t know they existed,” Galica said.

Brunk says VAIL is working to create an inclusive community one step at a time through partnerships with government entities, businesses, housing, and school divisions.

" “Seeing people able to live the life that they would like to live and seeing people gain that independence and that self-confidence,” Brunk said.

VAIL has two events in the coming weeks that the public can volunteer to participate in, including a three-team wheelchair basketball tournament featuring the Harrisonburg Cardinals on Feb. 11, and their annual Arctic Dip fundraiser on Feb. 18.

You can learn more about VAIL by clicking here.