Wounded Warriors Paddle Race to be held Saturday at VFW

This Saturday, the first annual Wounded Warrior Paddle Race will be held at the Ocean View VFW Post #7234, hosted by the House of David Foundation.

“House of David Foundation, is a local foundation, based right here, to support our wounded warriors. There’s a gap in services for them, and we’re trying to get them out on the water to help with their therapy. The race is just one aspect of the foundation,” said Rick Haden, House of David’s founder. “Another is to provide equipment and opportunities to the local wounded warriors to actually get out onto the water.”

Paddle races will include SUP, Outrigger Canoe, Kayak, Surfski and Prone, with tandem races for parents and children, as well as a social paddle involving everyone present waving American flags that will occur around lunchtime.

Registration costs $45 per person and begins at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, with the SUP race at 9 a.m., the kayak race at 11:30 a.m., and a social paddle at 1 p.m.

Haden said early this week that he had 50 people register for the races and hoped more would participate and attend.

“This is for a great cause,” he said. “Bad weather or not, I would hope they would look at the $45 as an opportunity to support the cause. I don’t expect everyone to participate in the paddling. I’d more like them to come out in support of the warriors and understand their needs, and maybe get excited about paddling for themselves.”

Haden said he has no monetary goal in mind for how much he would like to raise, however he said he would like to see around 250 people at the event itself.

“People who don’t want to paddle, just come out, bring your lawn chair, bring your American flag, listen to the music and watch the races.”

There will also be live music by Tim Cooney, food and beverages sold by the VFW, raffles and free paddling technique clinics.

“The community support has been great. A lot of people have been telling me how they believe in it. Local businesses are getting fired up for it. The Millville fire company, the Bethany fire company and their paramedics, they’ve all jumped in,” said Haden. “DNREC is assisting. I’m very, very appreciative of the VFW, because they’re giving me the whole facility to use, with hopes that this can become an annual or biannual event. It’s really a win-win for the community, because it’s bringing a lot of people in on a national scale. It’s bringing the limelight to Delaware and our little hidden diamond.”

The races will provide warriors with the opportunity to demo equipment with the racers on-site and find a therapeutic fit. And if a wounded warrior has a desire to pursue paddling, the foundation will provide the equipment, support and training involved at no expense to the veterans.

“The House of David Foundation is focused on using this free resource that we have, as a way to get these wounded warriors back up to the place they were before they went off to war. It’s about the whole process of supporting our veterans. These are local veterans,” said Haden.

“Most people come to the water for their vacation. We just happen to live here. The therapy of the water is a normal thing. It’s an area of comfort for just about everyone. Getting out physically on the water is a source of inner peace that a lot of people struggle for.”

Haden, a Marine Corps veteran, said that paddling has helped him get through difficult times in his own life and that he hopes it will do the same for other local veterans.

“Paddling has gotten me through some valleys in my life, and I think it can help others as well. Anything with a paddle, where it’s the silence with your own thoughts and nature, has a psychological, therapeutic aspect to it.

“It also has the physical exercise and helps to stimulate muscles and balance — it’s all engaged. It’s an all-encompassing, mind, body and spirit opportunity. These guys are a passion for me. I believe what they’ve done needs to be respected, and they don’t need to be forgotten for what they’ve endured.”

For people who do not paddle, donations are also accepted. For more information, or to register online, visit http://warriorpaddlerace.eventbrite.com, or email warriorpaddlerace@gmail.com or rick@thehouseofdavidfoundation.org.

For more information on the Wounded Warrior Project, a national organization based out of Jacksonville, Fla., with a mission of “honoring and empowering wounded warriors,” visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

For more information on the House of David Foundation, a local organization set up to serve combat-wounded servicemen and servicewomen of the United States Armed Forces, visit them online at thehouseofdavidfoundation.org. All of their services provided revolve around paddling water sports (stand-up paddling, kayaking, outrigger canoe, prone paddleboards and surf-skis) and the physical and psychological therapeutic benefits of the sports, as well as socialization by participants.