The Ashburn, Va.-based National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has been awarded Parks: Return and Restore grant funding. U.S. Paralympics, a division of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), announced the award. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides funding for the program.

The monies will support Paralympic sport and physical activity programs for disabled veterans and military. More than $4.4 million in funds for the program have been awarded to 95 community organizations in the United States.

Grants ranging from $2,500 to $500,000 were provided to USOC-partner organizations and community programs. The funds will be used to increase the number and quality of opportunities for physically or visually impaired veterans to participate in physical activity within their home communities and in more advanced Paralympic sport programs at the regional and national levels.

“NRPA is pleased to support nine park and recreation agencies throughout the country in the Parks: Return & Restore program this year,” said NRPA president and CEO Barbara Tulipane. “We appreciate USOC and the VA recognizing the critical role park and recreation agencies serve in helping our nation’s injured service members and veterans gain access to sport programs and physical activity in their local communities.”

“We couldn’t be happier with this latest round of grants to be awarded to these new partner organizations,” said Chris Nowak, director of VA National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events. “These grants provide more outlets for our disabled veterans and injured service men and women to stay active and perhaps, ultimately, the opportunity to take their athleticism to the next level of competition as a U.S. Paralympian.”

“This funding is already having a tremendous impact on disabled veterans and disabled members of the armed forces,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “Through the USOC/Veterans Affairs partnership, many community programs have been able to expand their programming and provide increased opportunities for veterans to participate.”

In a press release, the NRPA noted that “research has shown that regular participation in physical activity has a positive effect on the rehabilitation process, self-esteem, education, employment and overall health.”

Parks: Return & Restore grant funding establishes and expands programs that provide sport and recreation activities for injured service members and veterans. The NRPA offers a list of park and recreation agencies participating in the program.

The NRPA is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life. It has a network of 20,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens.