by Sara Cermenaro

Sometimes it takes someone else’s situation to realize yours is not so bad. There is nothing worse for a kayaker than to find out that shoulder surgery is needed. So I was not feeling my best the past week or so. But then I ran into an amazing group–war vets participating in a program called Team River Runners. And this amazing group totally inspired me.

Introducing Team River Runner

I recently had to go home for the unpleasant task of getting a potential shoulder injury checked out. Having received discouraging news you could say I was a little bummed out.However, that same evening I was invited to our local Veterans Affairs (VA) to help with a roll school.This was no ordinary roll school; this was a pool session for wounded vets recovering from injuries from the war. The program was called Team River Runner.  There were “students” that were recovering from TBI (traumatic brain injury), amputations, paralysis, and many other life altering injuries.There was even someone learning who had lost his eyesight due to a pointblank gunshot wound.Talk about putting things into perspective!I quickly changed and joined the multitude of volunteers that turned out to help.

 Teaching someone something that was thought unachievable is one of the biggest rewards for most kayak instructors. I have been fortunate enough to have gained some experience in teaching people the joy of kayaking as an instructor here at ERA, but that pool session really opened my eyes to whole new possibilities.After watching someone in a wheelchair get in a specially outfitted boat and become just like any other kayak enthusiast I was moved and inspired. These men and women are given a chance to forget about their daily hurdles and experience a whole new form of an adrenaline rush.

The roll session was followed by a trip down the Augusta Canal the next day and talk about entertaining.There were 50 plus boats out on the water that day, and the amount of support was staggering.It was a truly amazing experience.Joe Mornini is the man to be given credit for coming up with this idea.Mornini started a program called Team River Runner and is helping wounded vets all over the country. After experiencing such a rewarding day, with such inspiring new kayakers, teaching kayaking has taken on a whole new meaning for me!