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Guitars 4 Vets, Making Sweet Music

Behind Guitars 4 Vets Canada (G4VCan) is a simple but powerful concept using the power of music to help veterans.

Veterans who suffer with visible or non-visible injuries are matched up with a guitar instructor for 10 weeks of free lessons. Upon the completion of the program, the vet receives a donated guitar.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is like a song you can’t get out of your head. I  have PTSD and through a stroke of luck I discovered focusing on playing my guitar breaks the feedback loop of my thoughts. Concentrating on the instrument in my hands and the notes puts me in the moment, even if it was for just ten minutes. I thought if the music helped me get through the tough times it could help other vets,” said Jim Lowther, founder VETS Canada.

Loather came up with the idea for G4VCan shortly after he started VETS Canada, but he and his team were so busy helping homeless vets he could not focus on the project.

Lowther believes strongly his guitar saved his life, simply because the more he played, the more the noise of PTSD in his head faded away. He found the music life changing. He still suffers with PTSD and believes he probably always will, but playing helps him handle the PTSD. Music sets his soul free, and he knew he had to find time to focus on G4VCan. He stepped away from running VETS Canada for a time and concentrated on the music.

“I didn’t want to overthink setting up the program, so we found a dozen instructors and matched them with interested students in Ontario. Securing the guitars to give the students was more challenging, but several corporate donations have helped. Now we can give vets gift cards to rent guitars while they take their lessons. It’s working really well,” said Lowther.

VETS Canada has a mandate to cover the entire country, so they needed to find more cost effective ways to get the music to the vets. A studio producer stepped up and produced three How to Play Guitar Beginner Series DVDs for vets to access online. More and more guitar teachers began to volunteer their time, and more guitars were donated. The program is now flourishing.

“It’s been a crazy six months for us. We are really seeing this program grow,” said Lowther. “Our motto for Guitars 4 Vets is, Play it Forward.”

VETS Canada is a national charity that helps homeless veterans and at-risk veterans get off the street and back on their feet.

VETS Canada’s overall mission is to attempt to facilitate moving the veterans in need of help from the streets or shelters into affordable housing. The organization also connects veterans with needed health care, helps them access the benefits and services offered by other organizations like Veterans Affairs Canada or Royal Canadian Legion while supporting the vet as they seek suitable employment.

To learn more about VETS Canada and Guitars 4 Vets visit their website.

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Vicki L Morrison

Thanks to her husband's military career Vicki reinvented herself as a writer so she could work from home, while taking care of their three kids. A former MFRC executive director Vicki is a passionate advocate for military families who loves telling their stories.

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