Operation Mend is a groundbreaking program at UCLA that provides severely physically and psychologically injured U.S. military personnel and veterans with access to some of the very best care our nation has to offer. Operation Mend has been, since its inception in 2007, a family program. We believe that our injured service members and veterans need their families with them to heal, and that their families need help healing too. So, when these men and women travel from all over the country to receive care at UCLA, we welcome their caregivers – sometimes their entire families – and we wrap an extra layer of love and support around them through our Buddy Programs.
Depending on the time a volunteer has to give, we offer the following opportunities:
The Operation Mend Buddy Program is designed to fulfill our warriors’ non-medical needs. By carefully matching our warriors and their families with loving, caring individuals, couples or families that live in close proximity to UCLA (our Operation Mend Buddies), we give them the opportunity to engage in activities beyond UCLA’s clinic and hotel walls. Our buddies provide Operation Mend warriors and family members with opportunities for some sightseeing and meals out, drop off meals after surgery or after particularly difficult days, or just give them a distraction from the hard work of healing, and in the case of caregivers, some much needed respite. Most importantly, buddies give their friendship. The time spent together often leads to life-long bonds.
But the buddy program’s impact extends even deeper because it gives the warriors a safe space to learn to re-engage and build their own community of support to fight off the social isolation that is so prevalent for service members and veterans struggling with the physical and psychological wounds of war.
For our Operation Mend Buddies, it’s a hands-on opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who have suffered great injury through service to our country, and it is a learning opportunity for people of all ages, bringing the reality of war closer to home. Our Buddies always thank us for giving them the opportunity to participate in our program.
Our Intensive Treatment Program (ITP) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mild Traumatic Brain Injury engages volunteers in the clinic to join our patients during the lunch hour just to talk! Patients in the ITP spend 3 weeks, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 AM – 5 PM working very hard. It is intense. Our lunch buddies help patients take their mind off the hard work with light chit chat so they can relax and enjoy a nice break in the middle of the day. We ask lunch buddies to help with minimal set up and clean-up of lunch. Lunch is provided for lunch buddies. To set up a meeting to discuss becoming a lunch buddy, contact Clare Suomi at [email protected].
For those looking to volunteer ½ day per week, Operation Mend engages Office Buddies to work at the front desk helping with light administrative tasks – welcoming guests, answering the phone and other tasks as needed. This opportunity requires becoming an official volunteer with the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Our team will help with that process if it is determined that this is the right opportunity for you! To set up an appointment to discuss becoming an Office Buddy, contact Carol Lemus, :[email protected] or Clare Suomi, [email protected].