One Texas gym is giving hope to veterans by turning amputees into athletes. Former pro football player David Vobora started the Adaptive Training Foundation to train amputees. The gym focuses on self-reliance and strength, and teaches people that they are more than their injuries. In recognition of his work with amputees, Vobora was featured in Upstanders. The series is a Starbucks-sponsored initiative that highlights people who are making a difference in the world.
Vobora was already the owner of his own upscale gym in Dallas when his whole world changed. It was January 2014 at the birthday party of a friend when the former St. Louis Rams player spotted quadruple amputee Travis Mills. Mills lost his limbs to an IED explosion in Afghanistan while he was serving as a Staff Sergeant in the Army. Vobora approached Mills with an interesting question: “When was the last time you worked out?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to make you feel like an idiot,” Mills responded, “but I don’t have any arms or legs.”
Undeterred, Vobora offered to train Mills at his gym. Though he had never trained an amputee before, Vobora was confident. Mills agreed to be the first, and after nine weeks of training, was able to pull a 100 pound sled down a 30 yard section of turf.
Travis Mills’ outstanding accomplishments were only the beginning. Vobora persisted in recruiting disabled athletes and continued to alter his gym to accommodate all abilities. Some of the equipment he amassed includes a special surfboard used to teach balance, truck tires used for strength training, and pits filled with foam to help amputees learn to fall without fear of injury.
Brian Aft had no idea how much his life would change when he first met Vobora.
“I was rolling back to my truck in a parking lot,” Aft said in the Upstanders video, “And all of a sudden I just hear ‘HEY! HEY!’ and I look over, and I see this giant Spartan dude running over at me and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God…you’re gonna get robbed, Brian. You’re gonna get robbed.'”
Instead of robbing him though, Vobora and Aft connected. Aft had his limbs blown off after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan in 2011. After failing to find help at the VA, he became addicted to drugs, suicidal, and unemployed. Vobora was able to identify with those struggles, since a shoulder injury in the NFL the same year landed him a bad addiction to pain pills. After working with Vobora, Aft has strengthened his muscles as well as his mind. He can walk now with the aid of prosthetics, and has a job and a fiancée.
Vobora never takes payment for his work with the veterans, and in September of 2014, he obtained his 501(c)3 status for Adaptive Training Foundation. The gym is his new motivation in life. He even turned down an opportunity to play with the Dallas Cowboys. Vobora says his work with the Veterans is his new purpose. “I’ve found my ‘why’ in life.”