Paddling event at VFW offers support for wounded warriors


The first annual Warrior Paddle Race is scheduled for May 18 in the waters off the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post #7234 in Ocean View. Race shirts will be provided to the first 100 registrants. The day includes a three-mile stand-up paddle (SUP) race, a six- mile SUP race, a one-mile open kayak race (bay and surf), a three- mile open kayak race (bay and surf), a kid’s half-mile race and a social paddle.

There will also be live music by Tim Cooney, food and beverages, raffles and free paddling technique clinics. Registration costs $45, and all funds raised will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a 501(c)3 charitable organization that supports combat-injured veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

“We hope to have an event in the spring and one in the fall,” said Rick Haden, director of the House of David Foundation, who is hosting the event. “It’s so we can keep local wounded warriors in people’s minds — so they are not forgotten. There are enough of them that are suffering in silence, and it is not a short-term problem.”

He explained that the House of David Foundation was created to do two things: to create and manage races, and to educate the public and raise funds for veteran organizations, and also to engage the “wounded warriors.”

He said he hopes the light-heartedness of paddling and the competiveness of sport will assist the wounded warriors on their path to healing.

“Every service member has a commonality of competitiveness. If they are exposed to paddling, they have an opportunity to see how much fun it is and they can choose at what level they would like to participate” he said.

The House of David Foundation also has a mission to provide equipment and volunteer/mentor training that will help veterans to concentrate on the therapeutic aspects of paddling. The volunteers of the foundation have become adaptive paddling instructors, so they can take into account a veteran’s unique situation, explained Haden, such as an amputee or a person with a lack of range of motion from multiple surgeries.

He said they will have stand-up paddlers (SUPs) from all over the Mid-Atlantic come for their inaugural race, but he hopes that in the future the wounded warriors themselves will participate.

“There is a huge amount of them suffering from post-traumatic stress,” said Haden. “Being out on the water, in silence, it is an excellent opportunity for them to overcome that stress.”

Haden, a Marine Corps veteran, said that stand-up paddling was a “major player” in him overcoming his own post-traumatic stress. He added that, in addition to being mentally and physically exhausted, many wounded warriors come home spiritually drained, and the foundation hopes to address some of those issues, as well.

“Lots of times, they are spiritually beat up because of what they feel like they have done or for engaging in war,” said Hade.

The foundation Web site notes, “The House of David Foundation functions by faith and the grace of God. Everyone has three parts: body, mind and spirit. Not only did the wounded warrior’s body and mind suffer in combat, but the spirit also. We recognize this and will boldly provide guidance when it is sought by the individual.”

Haden said he hopes to have the wounded warriors eventually take up an interest in paddling and, if not this year, possibly be able to be at the point in the future where they will be the ones competing in the races.

“I can only hope that 30 or 50 wounded warriors will show up, all down at water’s edge. The paddlers will have the opportunity to share their passion and love of the sport, and the wounded warriors — they might pick up a paddle, and as they heal eventually compete in the race themselves — that’s the ultimate goal and a good measure of healing.”

In the middle of the slate of races, there will be a “social paddle,” which will be non-competitive and “anybody and everybody” can come out. Haden said he hopes to have their American flags waving so as to say to the wounded warriors on site, “Here are the Ocean View, Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach communities, and we support you 100 percent, and you can feel secure that we won’t forget you.”

Haden thanked the VFW Post #7234 for hosting the event.

“They have really been excellent,” said Haden. “They will have food and beverages, and they have been a great support, and I am so appreciative of them going out of their way for me.”

Tickets to the event cost $45, and Haden asked that people purchase them in advance so he can know how many T-shirts to buy and so the money they raise can be raised as efficiently as possible. Sponsorships are also being sought to assist the organization in obtaining durable and reusable items, such as race buoys and anchoring devices, race timing equipment, race numbers, digital logo creation and advertisement.

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