Veterans Day at the Lake

Veterans Day at the Lake

Movement. So easy to take for granted… and yet once
the freedom to enjoy all of life’s activities become even slightly hindered, impaired mobility
quickly becomes the focal point of our existence. One group, so commonly robbed of this freedom
is veterans, and while weakened mobility and other disabilities may present a new reality
it doesn’t have to mean the end of enjoying the outdoor world. This is the inaugural Veterans Day at the
Lake and it’s just a chance for veterans to come out and try our awesome, outdoor summer
activities. Just to get our veterans out to stay active
in the community. The Department of Veterans Affairs routinely
holds events to show retired service members what they’re capable of. So no matter the hurdle placed in front of
them, adventure is always possible. We have lots of folks with different ability
levels; whether that’s stroke or amputees. You know any ability level we have adapted
equipment to help them on and off the equipment and to utilize the equipment. So we have a kayak equipment that’s helps
people transfer into the kayak. We have for example fly fishing we have one
handed fly rods for folks who have just one hand. Same with the bikes, we have a hand cycle
if you only have upper body. So we’re here to serve everybody and it’s
our job to kind of figure out what will work for you. It’s a fun job to figure it out. Managing the paddling portion of the day is
Team River Runner Des Moines, a national organization that uses water sports as an avenue for rehabilitation,
building community, and keeping service members and their families active. I am a big believer in exercise. It gets the blood pumping, gets those endorphins
going. It makes you feel better about yourself. There’s a certain level of therapy being
out on the water it just takes you from your humdrum, high speed life, slows it way down
so that you can appreciate the here and the now. Nick Dodson has been kayaking practically
his entire life, and along with his wife Wendy-jo, volunteering with team river runner was a
natural fit; marrying Nick’s day job working with veterans to their shared love of paddling. I get something personally out of it. I’ve always liked working with the vets. Ever since I got into the wheelchair industry. Personally evaluated them, fitted them
for wheelchairs and listening to them and hearing their stories. And knowing that I am helping them to become
a better them. THat’s what I am so passionate about; help
somebody become a better person, a better version of themselves. Along with the Dodsons, Team River Runner
Des Moines has sought out veteran volunteers to illustrate first hand what disabled service
members are capable of. I was born on the eastern shore of Maryland
and I’ve been kayaking for over 25 years. And I’ve been in the racing circuit back
east. When I moved here I had a bit of back problems
and things like this and I went to the VA to get everything corrected they found out
my history in the kayaking business and I got recruited for the Team River Runner. I’ve been a happy camper ever since. I’m just enjoying helping all the other
vets with stuff like this. Obviously not all vets are champion kayakers
like Jay, and naturally many disabled individuals have developed a trepidation for getting low
to the ground, out on the water, in a small craft, so sometimes a little coaching is required. Some are very hesitant, especially to get
on the kayaks or to get on a new style of bike but one gal getting off of a kayak was
just a feeling she hadn’t had in years. I’ve always wanted to know how to kayak
and I love the water. I love to swim, I go boating with my brother,
I just love the water. A lot of us get arthritis and stuff and our
joints don’t work too good and it’s more difficult to get in and out of the boat. It’s an honest nervous, I get it I understand. It’s very different from being in a canoe. But actually it’s more stable than being
in a canoe. Because a canoe sits on top of the water and
you’ve got a larger fulcrum, easier to tip. Whereas the kayaks sit down in the water so
it’s all controlled with your hips. It’s like riding a bike. Once you get out there and you get that nervousness
out of the way. Everybody has a good time. All of the “Veterans Day at the Lake” activities
are setup with disabled concerns in mind. So no matter the ailment, the people running
the event are determined to make all interests a reality. I am not a veteran so this is quite literally
the least I can do for our veterans. I am so appreciative of their service and
this is a chance for me to give back and provide them with opportunities to improve the quality
of their lives. It’s just a full, ya know, mind-body experience. Improving their health and wellness. Improving their physical health, their mental
health, all of it. The truth is life goes on whether we take
advantage of our opportunities or not. So if Jay is any example, you might as well
live your life and find a way to do what you want to do. I don’t look like I’m disabled, but I
am. My entire body just about is bionic ya know? Both knees have been replaced, both hips have
been replaced, Two metals in my back, back surgery. Now just recently a total arm replacement,
a shoulder replacement and I just keep going. So be it… Just a lot of fun being out in the wild life
and stuff like that. Don’t give up. Get out there and you know, stay happy.

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