The Shepherdstown Community Club hosted and dinner and program Tuesday evening at the War Memorial Building where those gathered learned about Team River Runner and its local chapter at Shepherd University.
Chapter Coordinator Tracy Seffers shared that the Shepherd chapter is one of only four in the country hosted by an institution of higher education although there are many chapters around the nation.
Team River Runner was established in 2004 by kayakers in the Washington D.C. area as a service to veterans and active-duty military personnel in a healing status.
The program teaches kayaking skills using a step-by-step approach where patients learn to control and roll a kayak in a rehab swimming pool. They graduate to open water such as lakes and rivers and may move further to bays and oceans.
Seffers said that when the idea was brought up about a local chapter here, the idea made sense.
"We have two rivers, how perfect can that be?" she said. She explained that the program has met with great success because of the active paddling community, the locality of the Martinsburg VA Center, support of veterans in the Panhandle and volunteers who see the program as essential.
The local chapter offers weekly training sessions at the pool at the Wellness Center on Shepherd's campus, which the school donates at no cost. Instructors from Brunswick, Md. and Antietam come to offer training to those in the program.
"Support comes to these veterans in multiple ways," Seffers said. "Physical, emotional and psychological as well as offering cooperation and fellowship."
The program initially targeted veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan; however, Seffers said that his has broadened and is open to any veteran or active duty person in a healing status.
"If you show up, we will put your butt in a boat," she laughed.
Sharing his experience with the program, veteran David Perez simply said, "It has given me a new life."
Facing PTSD, Perez said he had feelings of isolation and hopelessness but that TRR has helpe him get back into every day life.
"I am grateful for the opportunity I've been given," he said. I am a part of something, with others who fee the same as me."
Seffers shared that she is connected to the program coming from a military family. She shared that her father was a Vietnam veteran who was not afforded such assistance when he returned to the States.
"Daddy was different," she said. "I couldn't fix him. I have found in this program a way to do some good," she continued, "to heal myself and these veterans."
For more information on Team River Runner and how one can support the efforts of the group, visit www.TeamRiverRunner.org or contact Seffers at 304-876-5463.
"Not one of us who walks away from these sessions is the same as when we walked in," she said.
The dinner and program was sponsored by the Shepherdstown Community Club who offer the events throughout the year. The next program and dinner is scheduled for late October. A final date has not been established; however, it will be posted after final selection.