Grieving her stepbrother’s battle with "daymares" and his suicide after returning from combat in Iraq, Janna Sherrill, 38, was motivated to find a way to help other veterans.
“We didn’t live in the same area but I completely misread the situation, and lived with the guilt that I could have done more,” she said. “To honor him, I focused my doctorate on learning what he’d been through to better understand what veterans need to reintegrate into civilian life and break barriers to PTSD treatment.”
With a master's degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Southern California, Janna returned to Missoula to work on her doctorate. While interviewing veterans and their family members, she met Jesse Scollin, an Iraq veteran, who told her how the intensity of riverboarding saved his life.
“That sparked the idea of using extreme sports to help combat veterans,” Janna said.
In 2010, Janna and Scollin partnered to create X Sports 4 Vets, a successful non-profit for combat veterans, in partnership with Montana River Guides and a group of volunteers.
“Starting the program provided a second chance for me to help, and it’s fulfilling,” she said.
Janna is now living in Butte with her husband, Kris, and young daughter, and is an occupational therapist at Copper Ridge Health and Rehab. She is still on the Missoula non-profit’s board and is currently working to establish X Sports 4 Vets in Butte.
This summer Janna ran a few rock climbing courses in partnership with The Peak Inc., but said the challenge has been to get the word out so veterans will participate. The program is free, but veterans must present proof of deployment.
Janna said, “It is amazing the strength and motivation of those involved in the program. I enjoy them and it is a huge motivation to do something useful for people and watch them transition from suffering to helping others.”
“X Sports 4 Vets takes a lot of time from our personal life,” she said. “It was awesome when Kris told me he had submitted a nomination in support of me and the program; he doesn’t resent the time spent on it.”