Aspen-area women rally to thank military women facing tough time |

Aspen-area women rally to thank military women facing tough time

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Twelve women who ran into incredible hardships while serving in the U.S. military will receive special appreciation for their efforts in Aspen next week.

The women are participants in Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities, or CAMO, a 5-year-old program designed to help active service members and veterans — both men and women — recover from wounds and injuries. Challenge Aspen started the program with two sessions in 2008. It’s been so popular and effective that it increased to 25 last year.

“Each one is designed to cater to different injuries,” said Dylan Braun, the program manager.

The 2013 Women’s Retreat, which Challenge Aspen will host Monday through Dec. 13, will help women who faced a particularly harrowing time while serving their country. Several face disabilities from military sexual trauma, Braun said. Others are dealing with brain injuries or physical injuries suffered while serving in the military, she said.

As with all the CAMO sessions, the women will be treated to therapeutic sessions of skiing or snowboarding on the slopes of Snowmass. The snow sports and a variety of other activities are designed to promote wellness, personal empowerment and life skills, Braun said. The women might not spend any additional time on the slopes after the retreat, but the experience with professionals will help boost their confidence in their general abilities, she said.

All expenses are paid for the participants, including transportation to Aspen.

Challenge Aspen’s information about the program says, “Daily recreation and wellness activities, group meals and educational sessions provide participants with the opportunity to acquire new skills, knowledge and resources to cope with their injuries while forming and enjoying new relationships in a fun, safe and healing environment.”

Some participants in the sessions are still on active duty while others are veterans. Nearly all of them have faced or will face difficulty reintegrating into civilian life after the military, often because of their experiences.

Braun said this year’s retreat will feature a new component that she says will make it one of the best. Ann Abernethy, who runs an Aspen-based women’s networking business, organized a night of appreciation for the military women. It’s a women-only event on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. Aspen-area women will gather at the Mountain Chalet and greet the military women as a group. Abernethy, a former major-market television host, will interview a couple of the women about their experiences in the military.

The Aspen women who are participating have written a thank-you note for the military women. Those notes will be compiled in a booklet and presented to the women.

That expression of community support and thanks is what will make the 2013 Women’s Retreat so special, Braun said.

Abernethy said she got interested in organizing an entire event around the military women after hearing about the CAMO division of Challenge Aspen from Braun.

“It’s the least I could do,” she said. “How else can you say ‘thanks’? How do we know what these women have done for us?”

While preparing for the event, Abernethy learned that there were 26,000 sexual assaults reported in the military last year. Braun said many of the victims suffer mental, emotional and physical injuries.

Abernethy said there has been a great response to the invitation to attend the night of thanks,and spots remain open. Women can attend by sending an RSVP to Abernethy at

There will be no “pitch” at the event, but attendees are asked to consider making a donation to Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities.

Abernethy said the rewarding part to organizing the evening of thanks was how it was embraced by women she knows.

“Women have just stepped up,” she said.

Mountain Chalet donated the use of the room. Blow Out Salon owner Vanessa Keep will provide the military women with makeovers before the event. Whole Foods Market Roaring Fork is providing hors d’oeuvres, and marketing director Sarah Innerarity will present a demonstration on cooking on a budget.

“This a community effort by women, for women,” Abernethy said.

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