Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus has recognized David Lionheart of the Town of Newburgh as September’s Citizen of the Month.
Lionheart is the founder of Play for Your Freedom, a non-profit charitable organization which provides wellness workshops for veterans, helping them live healthier lives.
“David and his team have worked tirelessly as an advocate for our service members,” Neuhaus said. “His passion for helping these men and women is evident in all that Play for Your Freedom and David himself does. His hard work and dedication have raised awareness about our service members and the challenges they face, and his contributions are greatly appreciated.”
Lionheart, 39, a carpenter, started Play for Your Freedom (www.playforyourfreedom.org) in 2013. He was inspired to start the initiative after learning about the experiences of a friend who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), after serving in combat in the U.S. Army. Lionheart was also moved by the death of his brother John, who committed suicide in 2005 at the age of 14.
“Rather than toss a coin in a bucket for veterans at a coin drop and walk away, I wanted to change the culture,” Lionheart said. “I wanted people to ask veterans ‘how are you doing today?’ and make them part of the community that they fought for.”
Play for Your Freedom’s first event, a flag football game, was held in New Windsor. The game attracted 16 players and grew to 72 the following year. Since then, Play for Your Freedom has conducted 120 workshops with more than 4,000 in Orange County and other locations, such as Chicago, Albany, New York City and California.
The events, which are free, include flag football and other adaptive sports, peer-to-peer fellowship, live music, and meals. Lionheart is also executive producer of a documentary called “PTSD. The Walking Wounded.” It can be purchased on iTunes. Lionheart and his wife, Helena, have one child, Roman, 6.
“We have a wonderful core group that is dedicated to this mission and I couldn’t do this without them,” Lionheart said. “Our mindset is to give back to the veterans who have given up so much for us. It is the greatest honor to see a veteran come back to volunteer at one of our events and put a Play for Your Freedom shirt on. I am humbled to be recognized by County Executive Neuhaus and thank him for his continued commitment to our veterans.”
Neuhaus introduced his Citizen of the Month Award, which acknowledges outstanding Orange County residents, in January of 2017. To nominate someone for the Citizen of the Month Award, please email email@example.com or mail a letter to “Citizen of the Month” at 255-275 Main Street Goshen, N.Y. 10924. Be sure to include the nominee’s name, hometown, a list of their accomplishments, why you are nominating them and any other pertinent information. Nominees must be from Orange County.