A day of fun on the water while raising money for wounded veterans is planned for Sunday, August 26.
Mark those calenders for Sunday, August 26, and get ready to have some serious fun while raising money for a truly important cause.
The second annual Chaotic Kayak Race to support Team River Runner’s St. John wounded veterans program will kick off at Oppenheimer Pavilion at 11 a.m. with a full day of food, refreshments, sports and live music lined up until 4 p.m.
TRR was founded in 2004 by Washington, D.C. kayak enthusiast Joe Mornini at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a way for wounded veterans to enjoy health and healing through adaptive kayak experiences.
Since 2004, the group has spread across the country with chapters at numerous Veterans Administration hospitals, most of which are run by fellow veterans who have completed the TRR program themselves.
TRR leads kayak trips on rivers and lakes across the United States and officials have been bringing groups of wounded veterans to St. John for the past five years. The groups spend the first week of November on the island, staying at Cinnamon Bay Campground while enjoying sea kayak trips, cruises on local boats and meals from a variety of local restaurants.
The trips offer the veterans a way to enjoy physical exercise and a chance to connect both with nature and fellow veterans.
Retired U.S. Coast Guard member Tom Larson, who owns Sadie Sea Charters, and Gulf War veteran John Schuld got involved with TRR several years ago to help raise funds for the St. John trips and organize in-kind donations and transportation logistics for the group.
Last year, the two organized the first St. John Chaotic Kayak Race in just a few short weeks and managed to raise about $20,000 for TRR’s St. John trip.
This year, after about a year of planning and with Miller High Life and Premier Wine and Spirits on board as major sponsors, the second annual fund raiser is expected to be even bigger and better, explained Larson.
“Last year we kind of winged it, but this year we’re a lot more prepared and it’s going to be epic,” he said.
Teams of three — two paddlers with one water cannon operator — will traverse a course starting from the beach at Oppenheimer around Sadie Sea, which will serve as the committee boat and host spectators who will be aiming water guns at competitors, and back to the beach.
While physical contact and intentional tipping are not allowed, teams are encouraged to shoot water guns at fellow competitors and generally disrupt other teams on the race course, explained Larson.
The first two teams to cross the finish line will advance to the semi-final heats where the final competitors will be determined and eventually one winner will be declared.
In addition to bragging rights, the winner will take home the coveted golden paddle to display at their business for the year.
There are already 25 teams registered and most of them will surely be gunning for last year’s winner, Arawak Expeditions.
The registration fee is $150 and teams can buy precious head-start seconds for extra cash as well. And it’s not too late to get involved. To register a team, contact Larson at 514-0778 or check out the website www.stjohnchaotickayak.com/index.html.
Even people who aren’t on teams are encouraged to come out to Oppenheimer and support TRR, explained Larson.
“It’s going to be a really fun day,” he said. “We’re going to have live music by Locals on the Eight and food from some great restaurants like Skinny Legs, Joe’s Rum Hut and La Plancha del Mar, plus beer from St. John Brewers. And everything is being donated.”
Which means every dollar raised at St. John Chaotic Kayak will go directly to TRR’s St. John trip, covering travel expenses and accommodation costs for the wounded veterans. So just bring plenty of cash; there will be beer, food, water and raffle tickets available for purchase on race day.
Suzanne Crosby has also be helping to plan the event this year, heading up the raffle committee. Crosby has already gotten a weekend stay at the Westin Resort and Villas, tons of gift certificates to local businesses and restaurants and some exciting jewelry donated as raffle prizes.
There will be $5 and $20 tickets for sale, which are available from Larson and Crosby and will also be on sale the day of the event. Crosby is also still accepting donations for raffle prizes. Call her at 704-942-4594 to make a donation.
There is a mandatory pre-race meeting, which one member of each team must attend, on Saturday, August 25, at the Inn at Tamarind Court at 3 p.m.
On race day, organizers are asking that all teams park at the gravel parking lot in Cruz Bay, where a free shuttle will be leaving every 30 minutes starting at 10:30 a.m.
Organizers are hoping to raise as much money as possible this year, Larson explained.
“The amount of money we raise will determine how many veterans we can bring down here, so my goal is to raise as much as we possibly can,” he said.
TRR founder Mornini himself and several wounded veterans are making the trip down for the event, so be sure to come out and support the Second Annual St. John Chaotic Kayak Race on Sunday, August 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Oppenheimer Beach.
After the races and festivities at 4 p.m., the fun and entertainment will move to Castaway’s in Cruz Bay, which will host a Chaotic Kayak after-party; again donating everything to TRR.
For more information, or to make a donation to one of the 25 teams, check out http://www.stjohnchaotickayak.com/ or call Larson at 514-0778.