Picture above: Directors Bobby Symonds, Doug Tuttle and Chuck Kays thank Mary Hinton and Sara Ashworth
Veterans Adaptive Sports (VAS) has been busy at its mission to promote rehabilitation of disabled military veterans through adaptive sports. We serve our veterans with spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments and neurological injuries. We have been blessed with your support and generosity and wanted to let you know what we have been doing.
Over the last several years, VAS has been methodically building a scuba diving program, providing yet another adaptive sport to promote healthy lifestyles. Our objective was to certify disabled veterans, establish partners and volunteers to support our disabled divers and provide safe ongoing diving opportunities. We are proud that our objectives have become reality as evidenced by our first Summer Scuba Program held August 3 – 10 here in Palm Beach County. Disabled veterans came from Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina and from all over Florida.
Early in that week, the final members of our dive group were PADI certified. These disabled veterans completed their course work at home and came prepared to finish their certification with pool work at The Scuba Club, West Palm Beach, and in the open water with our VAS Instructor, Scuba Ray Wantroba. They came through with flying colors and joined the other 16 disabled divers in our Summer Scuba Program.
Summer Scuba Program
Adaptive scuba diving at the open water level is not possible without Buddy Divers. Buddy Diver is a certification which instructs and qualifies divers to manage other divers with a variety of disabilities. Our partner in this is Veterans Ocean Adventures (VOA). They provide support for our diving and rallied to attend our Summer Scuba Program. They prepare the disabled to dive, get them in and out of the water, and manage them throughout the dive. As stated by VOA Founder Branson Rector, their mission is “to provide the opportunity for veterans to experience the healing of water”. On Friday, August 7, the Team went on its first dive on the Narcosis Dive Charter out of Riviera Beach. As you can see, our paraplegic divers experience this and more, a freedom not available to them on land.
Summer Scuba Program
The VAS and VOA dive group on Friday, August 7 after 2 dives on the Narcosis Dive Charter in the open waters off Palm Beach Island.
On Saturday, August 8, the divers split up with the most seriously injured diving with Jim Abernethy Scuba Adventures (Lake Park Marina) and the more experienced divers with The Scuba Club (West Palm Beach). All divers completed 2 more dives and met the challenges before them. Thanks to VOA support, all returned to shore safely and very happy. Job well done! And, we wish to recognize Chuck Kays who put together the certifications and all diving activities for Summer Scuba Program. Many thanks to Chuck for a great job!
VAS has now established regular scuba diving opportunities all year long. The objective is to keep our disabled veterans in the water and healthy and to continue to offer this experience to other interested and deserving disabled veterans.
Finally on Sunday, August 9, the disabled veterans and attending spouses took a break from diving aboard the Samana (Jupiter Inlet) for an afternoon of fishing. All caught fish and all enjoyed themselves in calm seas.
The Summer Scuba Program was made possible through the support of number of local organizations but most notable The Renewal Coalition. They are a non-profit whose sole mission is “to assist wounded service members and their families in their transition from military to civilian life or back to active duty by offering a retreat with the intent of providing military families a relaxed, pleasant, and welcoming environment.” This outstanding organization provided lodging for all our disabled veterans and spouses, three squares (meals) a day from Thursday through Sunday and helped VAS with all their plans and daily activities. VAS was their 39th Retreat. VAS was welcomed Thursday evening by Mayor Abby Brennan and dinner donated by the Tequesta Fire Fighters, a great kick-off to our Scuba Summer Program.
We especially thank Sara Ashworth, Executive Director Mary Hinton, volunteers Katie and Steve Jones, and Rheanna and Emilio Pages. Their generosity and support was simply amazing. Please take some time to visit their website and learn why they are so important to our veterans: www.renewalcoalition.org.
VAS has already started planning our Winter Program. We plan to return to Telluride CO February 6 -13, 2016 for the annual ski week. Due to the growing number of participating disabled veterans, a second ski week is also being planned tentatively for March 2016. VAS encourages all veterans to attend the VA Winter Sports Clinic with their home VA Medical Center April 2 – 9, 2016 in Snowmass CO. Each year VAS helps disabled veterans attend this event that do not have access to one of the participating VA Medical Centers.
We are proud to have established an all-volunteer organization which provides for over 95% of your donations to go directly to our services and programs. Please visit our website for up to date news about our activities and help us to Help One Veteran At A Time!
Veterans Adaptive Sports President Doug Tuttle
Doug Tuttle, President and Co-Founder
Bobby Symonds, Director and Treasurer
Bill Edwards, Director
Chuck Kays, Director