National Ability Center will Salute Our Heroes |

National Ability Center will Salute Our Heroes

Five years ago, the National Ability Center, a nonprofit that offers recreational activities for all abilities, presented its first Saluting Our Heroes Luncheon.

The goal of the event was to honor veterans and service members in the local community, according to Julia Rametta, event manager for the National Ability Center.

While that goal hasn’t changed, the luncheon, which will be held this year at The Grand America Hotel, 555 South Main Street in Salt Lake City, at noon on Friday, Nov. 13, is to introduce the public to the National Ability Center and other organizations that serve veterans, Rametta said.

"We want to spread awareness of the programs that are offered to veterans and return service members," she said.

The luncheon is free, but registration is required. Visit to register.

Governor Gary Herbert will give a welcome and the keynote speaker will be David Checketts, former owner of Real Salt Lake and general manager of the Utah Jazz.

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"David is now in New York and his company, Legends, runs the Freedom Tower," Rametta said.

The luncheon will honor Mick Warner, co-owner of MacCool’s Public House.

"We will also have presentations by families who have participated in our programs," Rametta said.

Over the past five years, Saluting Our Heroes has grown exponentially.

"This year we are expecting 600 people to attend, which is much different than our first year when we had 150 people attend," Rametta said.

This is the second year the Boeing Company has been the title sponsor.

"They have a wide audience and the employees and other partners attend the event and we’ve been able to get other companies involved," Rametta said.

That’s a plus for the center, because the luncheon connects the nonprofit, which is located at Quinn’s Junction, with the Salt Lake City population.

"This is a great introductory event for people to learn about what we do," Rametta said. "They can see first-hand by hearing from our participating speakers about their experiences with us."

Jeremy Houskeeper, group and military program manager with the National Ability Center said the center has developed and introduced many programs for veterans and their families over the years.

"We host family retreats and individual health and wellness retreats that focus on the nutrition and recreation of the veterans and their families," Houskeeper said. "We also have developed community activities as well."

The primary goal for these activities is to remove the barriers in adaptive recreation, he said.

Those activities are:

  • Horseback riding
  • Fly fishing
  • Tubing at Soldier Hollow
  • Skiing and snowboarding with Vail Resorts
  • Swimming in the Homestead Crater in Heber
  • Golf at Park City Municipal, Soldier Hollow and Mountain Dell

    "We also use the Kimball Art Center and the Paint Mixer for different activities," Houskeeper said. "Without these partnerships, we wouldn’t be able to do these things."

    Houskeeper said the community as an important resource for the National Ability Center.

    "We host events at Soldier Hollow and Sundance Resort. We use Rocky Mountain Outfitters, Jans and other local vendors to help supply these activities," he said.

    Another goal of these activities is to help a veterans feel safe in their own communities after returning home from service.

    "They need to be able to feel like they can trust a civilian and that their post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t flair up," Houskeeper said. "One of the biggest wins is if a veteran with PTSD can cope with going to Walmart to pick up some medicine for a sick mother."

    When the National Ability Center started to offer activities to veterans in 1985, only 45 veterans had signed up. Today, it serves 900 service-related individuals on an annual basis, according to Houskeeper.

    "We believe that service-related individuals include family members," he said. "These people who are attached to these veterans also sacrificed for our country. They had to go through similar things. They, too, experienced loss, fear, insecurity. So, our programs are open to all of them as well."

    National Ability Center’s Saluting Our Heroes luncheon will be held at The Grand America Hotel, 555 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, Friday, Nov. 13, at noon. The event is free. To register, visit