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Team River Runner Offers Wounded Veterans A Helping Hand in Boise

Mar 23, 2017 Comments (0)  | Tags: Beer is Love Team River Runner Offers Wounded Veterans A Helping Hand in Boise


Team River Runner has made its mission to serve others. Through watersports and outdoor therapy, this organization is committed to helping wounded veterans nationwide. Their mission statement is "Team River Runner is a national nonprofit organization committed to helping active duty, veteran service members and their families through adaptive kayaking." We are proud to be working with such an incredible organization throughout the Believer Campaign. 

Based in Rockville, Maryland with dozens of chapters nationwide, Team River Runner has helped thousands of families from each corner of the United States. There are so many amazing stories about the lives of people that have been affected from Team River Runner, we thought we'd share a few. Read the inspiring stories of Michelle, Sandy, and Stephen from the Boise, ID chapter below. 

Michele W. 

"Through TRR I have been able to overcome my fears and built confidence in myself. I also found that even though I might live with constant pain if I'm on the river and nervous about going through rapids I am not thinking about my pain."

1. Please give us a brief rundown about your history both with military and non-military life.

I served briefly in the Navy.  While I was in the Navy I was diagnosed with a DVT and Pulmonary Embolism. The damage to my leg was bad enough that I could not remain in the Navy. A few years after my military service I found out I was pregnant and was diagnosed with Lupus and Kidney disease which is the reason for my blood clots.

Since serving in the Navy I have been married to a wonderful man and have a fabulous 21 year old daughter. About five years ago I had a kidney transplant.  It was a difficult recovery because of some complications.  I also hurt my back. At this point in my life I was inactive because of pain and a sedentary lifestyle.

2. How did you get involved with Team River Runner?

I finally reached a point where I couldn't deal with pain anymore. I hate pain pills and chose not to go down that path.  My husband and I decided to purchase a swim spa so I would be able to exercise in water. At that point my doctor referred me to Rec Therapy to start to get active. This was a life changer for me I lost over 25 pounds and started to be active. At a cross country ski trip Sandy Thomas told me about TRR and told me to check it out.  I was scared to death to be in a kayak even though I was a good swimmer at this point. I decided to try it out and loved it. 

3. How has your involvement with Team River Runner helped heal and improve your life?

I was definitely afraid of whitewater kayaking and never thought I would do it. After doing a couple pool sessions and pond sessions.  I felt a little better but still nervous about being on a river. Sandy Thomas and I were chosen to go on a leadership kayaking trip on the San Juan River and had a great time.  

Sandy T. 

"I’m finding the old me peeking out from behind the curtain and engaging in life again. So good."

1. Please give us a brief rundown about your history both with military and non-military life.

I was born and raised in Boise, Idaho, the 5th of 5 siblings. I’m a graduate of Boise State University with degrees in Business Management and AutoCAD Technologies, and joined the United States Air Force at 24 years old where I worked in hospital administration. I have two biological sons and inherited two more and a daughter through marriage. My husband and I have one granddaughter, my little soulmate.

I enjoy the outdoors; kayaking, camping, hiking, fly fishing, horses, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. I have a passion for redoing vintage camp trailers (I have two of them.) And I spend a great deal of time in my studio doing various textile art projects, quilting and designing clothing.

2. How did you get involved with Team River Runner?

When I finished a stint in the VA’s Physical Therapy department, I was referred to the Recreation Therapy department for aquatic fitness. I saw a note about Team River Runner (TRR) in the monthly Recreation Therapy newsletter and got the information on it…the rest is history.

3. How has your involvement with Team River Runner helped heal and improve your life?

 I’m not a very social little butterfly, so going to the pool the first time was a huge effort. I had so much fun!  After a winter of practicing moves and techniques in the pool, Team River Runner sent a fellow veteran, Michele Williams, and me to an all-women’s five day leadership clinic on the San Juan River in Utah. That helped me step up to the plate and interact with others in a comfortable atmosphere, learn new techniques, and I made friends with likeminded women.

It was when I got back home and ventured out for the first time on one of our mountain rivers with our local TRR chapter that I had my “ah ha” moment. The sun sparkling on the water, blue sky, mountain air and me in the middle of it, just how I’d always imagined. I knew I was meant to be there. Knowing that I have the most awesome experienced safety crew surrounding me gives me the security to kayak on moving water and through rapids. Yes, the louder the rapids roar, the higher the anxiety, but I stretch my limits and go for it.

Besides the obvious of being one with the water, one with nature, TRR gives me purpose. It gives me confidence and drive, and allows me to be with people who understand where I’m coming from. They say I’m always smiling on the water. I can’t help myself. So are they! I finished last season with another veteran, Stephen Pratt, traveling to St. John USVI for a week long leadership clinic staying on Cinnamon Beach and sea kayaking and snorkeling in a different bay every day. It was a dream. Again, I learned a lot and got to know other TRR members. Since that trip last fall, I have been an ambassador for TRR and am in their 30 week OJT leadership program, allowing me to do more of the administrative side, fundraising events, trip planning, etc.

Stephen P. 

"Team River Runner has improved my quality of life by getting me off the couch and into a kayak on the water."

I served 10 years in the United States Army as a communications specialist. I was deployed to the 1st Iraq war "Desert Storm" and a yearlong peacekeeping mission to Bosnia.  I have been married for almost 20 years and I have 3 children, which my son has just now joined the Army himself. 

On October 17th of 2010 I was on a father son hunting trip with a friend of mine and his son. We were riding our ATVs in an area that we had been in many times before and went up a hill that we had been up dozens of times before but this time was different.

When we got about halfway up the hill there was a small tree on the path and as I attempted to go over the tree, the weight of my son on the back along with going over the tree caused the ATV to flip over backwards. I only had a fraction of a second and the first thing that came to mind is that my son is still on the back. I did the only thing I could think of and that was to turn around and give him a push off the back. The next thing I knew the ATV landed on top of me then bounced off leaving me lying on the ground in agony. I knew from that moment on my life was going to be dramatically changed forever because I knew that I was paralyzed from the waist down.

Over the next few years I started to develop some severe nerve pain in my legs and abdomen. It put me in a deep depression and I stopped doing everything that I use to enjoy.

I was then introduced to Team River Runner by the recreation therapist at the Boise VA. I told myself to at least try it and see if this is something I can even do and will my pain even let me do it. Over the months leading up to summer we practiced in a pool and a large pond on how to control our Kayak and how to be safe out on the water. It really took a team effort to get me down the boat ramps, through dirt and sand and into my kayak. Once I was out on the water going down stream and through some small rapids I started to notice that I was not thinking about my pain any longer and my depression had lifted because I was not thinking about anything but the calm of the water and God's beautiful canvas that was before me.

To get involved with this chapter, please click here. Vote for Team River Runner through our Believer Campaign, here

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