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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

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Florida Veteran receives Special Recognition

August 30, 2011

Pam Kelly, 46, a U.S. Army Veteran of Bay Pines, Fla., has won first place in the special recognition category in this year’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). All Veterans invited to participate in the annual event are selected winners of year-long, national fine arts talent competitions in which thousands of Veterans enter from Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities across the nation. The special recognition award is particularly prestigious because winners must demonstrate creative expression through the arts despite significant physical or psychological limitations. This year, more than 3,000 Veterans entered the competition.

Kelly won the special recognition award in the 1st place solo musical division with her performance of “Let it Be” by the Beatles.

In 2002, shortly before being deployed with her National Guard unit, she was involved in an accident while loading equipment, resulting in heavy equipment crushing her and knocking her unconscious.  This accident resulted in a lumbar spinal cord injury, spinal paralysis and other injuries.

Prior to the accident, Kelly was actively involved in music, playing the trumpet and drums and singing. For her, music was used as a release and diversion from daily troubles.  The paralysis and injuries she sustained made it nearly impossible for her to continue.

She was referred to music therapy in 2010 by a peer, and began receiving weekly sessions to assist her in participating in the 2011 NVCAF Local Competition.  She was concerned with vocal breaks and contractions, and had avoided singing, but through music therapy sessions she was able to gain the self-confidence to submit her entry.  Although she was nervous on the day of her recording, she was able to work through anxiety and fear to achieve a sense of accomplishment and pride she once lost.

The Festival takes place October 17 - 23, 2011 in Fayetteville, Ark.  At the event, more than 120 Veterans will exhibit their artwork or perform musical, dance, dramatic or original writing selections in a gala variety stage show at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 23 in the Walton Arts Center.

VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy, and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.  The annual event is presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Help Hospitalized Veterans and the American Legion Auxiliary.

For more information, visit the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Web site at:



Media Inquiries:

  • Faith Belcher, Public Affairs Officer, 727-398-7531