National Park Trust and Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) have formed a meaningful partnership that creates healing outdoor experiences for families who have lost a loved one due to military service. These experiences offer a chance to revitalize their outlook on life and connect with their local communities by getting outside, being active, and having fun.

In 2023, from Washington, DC to Flagstaff, Arizona, the two national non-profits hosted seven events for almost 200 participants thanks to generous support from the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service. For the military and veteran families, getting together at national park sites provided a unique opportunity to be immersed in nature and connect with others who share a similar story. 

In June, couples grieving the loss of a military or veteran loved one came together for the TAPS Couples Fishing Retreat on the Upper Delaware River in New York for a week of fly-fishing, peer-to-peer connection, honoring their loved ones and soaking up the healing power of their beautiful surroundings. Thanks to Trout Unlimited volunteers, TAPS families were introduced to different fishing techniques and the gear required.

In September, one of these fishing events was hosted at our nation’s most visited National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, where TAPS surviving parents gathered for a weekend of connection, respite, and lots of fly-fishing. It was healing journey for the mind, body, and soul, and unique bonds were created from shared experiences of loss and grief. Over half of the survivors in attendance were at their first TAPS event. One survivor shared they realized “we still have a future and having a renewed motivation to enjoy life, this retreat has been a turning point for me and my husband.”

Additional events were held in Upper Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, Rocky Mountain National Park, C&O Canal Historical Park, and Cocino National Forest. We are looking forward to another successful year in 2024!