St. John Tradewinds News

Kayak for a Cause: TRR’s Chaotic Kayak Race Fundraiser August 28

The August 28 TRR fundraiser will help ensure that wounded veterans and their spouses, above, are able to enjoy a week of therapy and adventure on St. John again this year.

Looking for a little adventure and a way to help support men and women who have been wounded serving their country?

Mark those calenders for Sunday, August 28, at 1 p.m. for the St. John Chaotic Kayak 2011 at Oppenheimer Beach. Brandi and John Schuld are organizing this zany kayak race to support Team River Runner’s St. John program.

TRR was founded in 2004 by Washington D.C. kayaker Joe Mornini at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The program is dedicated to helping wounded warriors heal through kayaking.

The group’s mission is simple — to create an environment of healthy adventure for healing active duty service members and veterans through paddle sports — but TRR’s impact is profound.

The program offers leadership skills, sorely missed excitement and mental and physical exercise. The group also gives veterans a needed sense of true camaraderie and empowerment.

From its beginning at Walter Reed seven years ago, TRR now has chapters associated with more than 20 Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs medical centers across the country.

After perfecting their skills in a rehab pool, TRR participants hit the road and the rapids, or ocean, at trips from the Grand Canyon to Cinnamon Bay. TRR first visited St. John in 2007, but had to cancel its planned 2008 trip due to lack of funds.

Mornini and volunteers made sure that didn’t happen in 2009 or 2010, when the group returned for a week of ocean kayak adventures each year. TRR is planning its next trip to St. John this November and needs the community’s help.

TRR is a non-profit organization relying solely on private financing. The average cost of bringing a group of veterans to St. John runs about $30,000 and the group has already raised about half of that amount.

Thanks to Skinny Legs owner Moe Chabuz, who ran the 8 Tuff Miles Road Race as a fundraiser for TRR, the group raised the first $10,000 for its 2011 trip in February. Amy and Tom Larson of Sadie Sea have been donating their tips to the cause which has upped that amount to $15,000, explained Brandi Schuld.

While many restaurants and businesses offer in-kind donations and supply meals and transportation for the veterans during their Love City stays, the Chaotic Kayak Race is the first major fundraiser for TRR on St. John, she added.

Volunteers are hoping the event will garner the additional $15,000 needed to cover TRR’s St. John trip expenses to ensure the group enjoys a week of healing on St. John waters.

And the race is going to be a blast, literally. Teams of three will take to a two-person sit on top kayak and complete a course while being pelted with water cannons, explained Brandi Schuld.

“The two people on either end will be the paddlers and the person in the middle will be the water cannon gunner,” she said. “Their sole purpose will be to fend off the competition.”

While there will be some water toys available for use, participants are welcome to bring their own manually powered water weapons, Schuld added.

“We’ll provide standard water cannons, but people can bring their own too, as long as they are manually powered,” she said. “There will be a weapons inspection before the race.”

Organizers are hoping for at least 16 teams to compete in a bracket-style tournament with the last two kayak teams battling it out in the end. The cost to enter is only $150 per team, but there is an incentive to raise additional funds, Schuld explained.

“To register a boat it will cost $150,” she said. “But the team can continue to raise funds in order to buy time on race day. So people can buy themselves a head-start.”

Crabby’s Watersports is donating the kayaks for the event, St. John Brewer’s will be providing refreshments and Sadie Sea will be the committee and party boat, Schuld added.

“There is limited parking at Oppenheimer so Sadie Sea has agreed to take people from Cruz Bay to Oppenheimer and back to Cruz Bay,” she said. “All of the funds raised through that will also go to TRR.”

Anyone not interested in jumping in a kayak can still help out. Volunteers are needed to help keep time, update the leader board and to make things run smoothly in general, Schuld added.

Registration forms and more information about the TRR’s St. John Chaotic Kayak 2011 race on Sunday, August 28, will be available soon. In the meantime, check out TRR’s St. John USVI group page on Facebook for more information.