Endowment: Tandem Kayaks for Disabled Veterans

Cincinnati Chapter Kayak Paddlers

The Endowment is always looking to support good conservation projects as well as projects that get kids outdoors and generally match up with the goals of the League’s five-year strategic plan. But once in a while, we step outside the box because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s the case with a grant to the Cincinnati Chapter to purchase two-person tandem kayaks. These kayaks are being used as part of a cooperative effort with a nationwide veterans support group, Team River Runner (TRR), to help get wounded and disabled servicemen and women back into the outdoors and reconnect with society. Here’s how it all came about.

In an effort to identify veterans in the area that needed help, Dr. Janet Everhard, TRR’s veteran outreach coordinator, sent letters of inquiry to all the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts. The only response she received was from Dave Zieverink (now there’s a familiar name), who recognized this as an opportunity to help wounded military veterans while also promoting the League’s outdoor recreation goals.

Dave offered the Cincinnati Chapter’s facilities for use by TRR, and this was the start of a worthwhile and continuing relationship. Veterans receiving services at the Fort Thomas Division of the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center are transported by bus to a site upriver from the Cincinnati Chapter, where they receive basic instruction on kayaking. They then travel as a group down the Little Miami River, accompanied by a team of experienced kayakers, to a take-out point at the Cincinnati Chapter, where they relax, picnic, and enjoy the chapter’s hospitality. (Side note: The Little Miami River is one of only 156 American rivers designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. It’s a great place for canoers and kayakers!)

One of the problems the group encountered was that there were no two-person kayaks available for use by veterans who needed in-boat assistance to be able to participate. So the Cincinnati Chapter applied for and received an Endowment grant to purchase of several tandem kayaks. Dr. Everhard explained that the tandem kayaks could also help homeless and socially isolated veterans reconnect and share experiences with any of their children who lived in the local area and help them integrate back into society.

This year, the Cincinnati Chapter and TRR are planning monthly Paddle & Picnic events through November. Veterans receiving services at the Fort Thomas Division as well as the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder unit are invited to the paddling events as are veterans from the surrounding community. In addition, TRR is holding weekly, impromptu paddle outings at locations throughout the area.

The tandem kayaks were provided to the chapter at cost by D&D Outfitters of Cincinnati, with the cost of paddles and life vests picked up by the Cincinnati Chapter.

The cooperation between the Cincinnati Chapter and Team River Runner is something that could be replicated by League chapters across the county. For more information on Team River Runner, check out their Web site at www.teamriverrunner.org.

Providing funding for these tandem kayaks is an excellent example of the Endowment’s commitment to programs that are supportive of the philosophies and objectives of the League.

Miles Greenbaum, Vice President, IWLA Endowment

For more information on Endowment grants, including grant application forms, go to http://ikesendowment.org. Applications can now be submitted electronically.