October 24, 2023

Help Heal Veterans Provides “Lifesaving” Art Therapy for Military Members

Author Aly Semigran, Content Specialist

Art therapy, first introduced in the U.S. in the 1940s, is an effective tool when it comes to helping individuals “interpret, express, and resolve their emotions and thoughts.” It’s become a particularly useful intervention for both veterans and active-duty military service members. A 2018 study found that for those in treatment with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, art therapy “fostered interpersonal relatedness, hopefulness and gratification.”

Help Heal Veterans has seen and heard these exact kinds of positive outcomes firsthand. The nonprofit organization, established in 1971 and now headquartered in Winchester, California, makes and distributes free therapeutic craft kits to veterans and active-duty service members in the U.S. and around the world. The kits, designed by craft care specialists, are sent out to homes, active military bases and veteran-based organizations.

Kristen O. Bennett, the vice president of development for Help Heal Veterans, says these kits can be “truly lifesaving and transformative” for those who receive them, adding, “It’s more than just making a craft.” The organization’s 2022 donor impact report found that 75% of recipients with traumatic brain injuries said the kits helped, and 89% of vets reported a drop in their pain levels.

Bennett says that veterans and service members are “so appreciative of the support from donors.” Donor dollars, Bennett directly towards creating the kits, shipping, and overall operations of the organization, which roughly two dozen staff members run.

With Help Heal Veterans “back to pre-pandemic levels of need” from veterans and facing rising costs due to inflation, Bennett says that giving vehicles like “donor-advised funds (DAFs) can be a major part of solving that problem.” Unrestricted giving, in particular, Bennett explains, “is critical to our sustainability.”

Help Heal Veterans’ kits—of which 31 million have been distributed to date—are comprised of mostly reused and recycled materials like wood, leather, beads and jewelry. “Not only are we helping our veterans that have served us, but we are also saving landfills from excess waste,” Bennett explains.

But it’s not just their art therapy and sustainability initiatives that appeal to veterans, service members and supporters alike. The organization also offers the opportunity for pen pal correspondence between donors and recipients.

Gabriela Bailey, Help Heal Veterans’ development coordinator, says, “We have heard so many stories from veterans over the years who have formed amazing bonds with donors. The pen pal program, she adds, “is a great way for donors to connect with our veterans.”

Photos courtesy of Help Heal Veterans

About the Author

Aly Semigran is a Content Specialist at National Philanthropic Trust. She has been writing and editing professionally for over 15 years, with articles in Billboard, Well + Good and Mic, among many other notable publications. In addition to her editorial background, Aly is currently getting her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. She resides in Philadelphia with her dog.