This week, Veterans at the 2017 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic are challenging themselves in a variety of adaptive sporting events each day. Veterans are learning archery, surfing, sailing, kayaking and cycling, and are working with a dedicated team of sports experts, physical therapists and volunteers. Committed to helping disabled Veterans, these staff and volunteers challenge each participant to push their personal limits and accomplish goals many thought they’d never be able to do again.
Tuesday, teams Neptune and Phoenix came to the Mission Bay Yacht Club to kayak the bay. Before the first kayak went into the water, the team from the San Diego chapter of Team River Runners gave a safety briefing and basic instructions, including how to get into the kayak, how to paddle – or pedal for those in adapted kayaks, and what to do if you found yourself wrong side up in the water.
Dale Osborn, San Diego chapter coordinator for Team River Runner said his favorite part of helping with kayaking at clinic is seeing all the smiles from the Veterans and feeling how much they enjoy it.
His organization’s mission is to create healthy adventure, recreation and camaraderie for healing Veterans through adaptive kayaking. The chapter helps Veterans with hand adaptation needs, cognitive challenges, TBI, PTSD, amputations, mobility needs and visual impairments through kayaking.
Venue lead Ralph Marche has been volunteering to help Veterans kayak since the very first clinic 10 years ago. Every day this week, Marche will glide over to a Veteran in the water and start a conversation. He loves to help at this event and use his gift of gab on the quietest of Veterans.
“You don’t need to be the best kayaker,” Marche said. “You just need to give with your heart. Learn a little, teach a little.”
Army Veteran and clinic ambassador Bryan Smethurst is also helping other Veterans enjoy their Summer Sports Clinic experience.
“It doesn’t matter what disability any of these Vets have,” he said. “They can all play the same sports, they can all do the same length of ride, they can still get on the same water as all the rest of us. There are no limitations.”
About the author: Jamie Dannen is a public affairs specialist in the Technical Career Field Program at VA New Orleans. She is an Army Veteran and a graduate of Kansas State University.