For families of veterans and active duty service members who are being treated at Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, golf cars are a valuable and needed mode of transportation. With limited parking and specialized transportation needs, many veterans and their elderly family members are unable to make the journey around a VA hospital campus.
That’s why Tee It Up for the Troops, with their national headquarters in Burnsville, Minn., has partnered with Textron Specialized Vehicles, manufacturer of E-Z-GO vehicles, to donate customized vehicles to Fisher House, a foundation that provides comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge. Tee It Up for the Troops has donated a “battalion” of E-Z-GO vehicles to Fisher House facilities nationwide, with the recent 20th new ride delivered to the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System in California.
For the last seven years, Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, in partnership with E-Z-GO distributor Versatile Vehicles of Prior Lake, Minn., have delivered several vehicles a year to Fisher Houses across the nation. The first was delivered to the Augusta VA Medical Center in Georgia in 2012, with others reaching the East Coast’s Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, the West Coast’s Camp Pendleton in California, and midwestern Fisher Houses in Milwaukee, Wisc. and Minneapolis, Minn.
“Tee It Up for the Troops has been there for us and has provided a vehicle to every one of our houses on a VA property that has needed one,” said Brian Gawne, vice president of community relations for Fisher House Foundation. “Parking and getting around on a VA campus is always a challenge, and some families are not mobile. Thanks to Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO, these cars are a godsend when families are facing a tough medical crisis.”
“Recently we had a veteran discharged from the hospital after kidney removal surgery and it would have been extremely painful for him to bend into a vehicle to get back to Fisher House,” said Jenny Hall, Manager of the Alaska Fisher House. “The golf car allowed him to easily slide in and out at a comfortable height with minimal pain.”
“It’s great teaming up with E-Z-GO and working together to make our heroes’ lives better,” said Tim Wegscheid, president and executive director for Tee It Up for the Troops. “I truly believe our veterans and their families are entitled to be taken care of, and donating these vehicles is just one way we do that.”
Tee It Up for the Troops has hosted 500 fundraising events in over 40 states over the last 15 years, allowing the non-profit organization to donate over $10 million to military service organizations that provide critically needed services to combat veterans and their families.
“Electric shuttles that are quiet and efficient can take a whole family or injured warfighter from a Fisher House around the campus to receive therapy or see a doctor,” said Brandon Haddock, director, communications at Textron Specialized Vehicles. “The vehicles can traverse facility paths, parking lots, and even into the entry of a VA hospital. It’s great to see how excited people are about the shuttles and to give the veterans something they really need.”
“These stretch electric shuttles, which can comfortably accommodate six passengers, are customized with many added features for the comfort and safety of veterans,” said Gaby Accad, owner of Versatile Vehicles, whose distributorship customizes many of the Fisher House vehicles. Additions include safety lights, turn signals, a rear seat that can convert to a flatbed to carry a wheelchair or other equipment, and a retractable windshield to block wind and rain.
Accad works with local companies to donate custom features, including red, white and blue premium seats embroidered with the Tee It Up for the Troops logo, decals that are applied to the custom-painted cars, and shipping of the cars at donated or reduced rates to their destination.
“What this country has provided to me, it’s the least I can do for our soldiers who put their lives on the line for us to enjoy our freedom and the things we cherish in this country,” Accad said.
Tee It Up for the Troops and E-Z-GO first learned of the need for a small, efficient vehicle to transport wounded warriors in 2011, when they shipped a vehicle to a military base in Afghanistan to help move soldiers to field hospitals and to get those recovering from injuries around the base. From there, the need to meet increased demands for transport of returning service members with disabilities and their families escalated stateside.
“This is just a continuation of our support for veterans who do incredible things for our country,” Wegscheid said.