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Team River Runner finds local home

By Staff | Jun 28, 2013

Shepherd University recently began the work of providing some our nation’s wounded veterans with a place to recuperate and learn new skills.

A recently formed chapter of Team River Runner works every week teaching servicemen and women to kayak on our local waterways.

Tracy Seffers, Registrar for Shepherd University explained that Team River Runner has become a natural fit at Shepherd University.

“I’m already a kayaker,” she said.

“Part of what we wanted to do was find a way to connect to this population that we really hadn’t had a specific relationship with before,” she said.

Seffers explained that in Fall 2011 the SU Registrars office staff began handling the work of certifying student veterans to the national Veterans Administration organization, which oversees veterans’ educational benefits.

She said she was called to the Team River Runner national organization as a result of her office’s new role, seeing it as a way to better serve both students veterans and the local community of Vets.

“For me it seemed like a no brainer,” she said.

Beginning in May, Team River Runner at SU began working with approximately six veterans, most of whom are recommended for Team River Runner as they rotate through the VA Center for therapy.

Seffers said some are still active duty and many are retired.

Therefore some will relocate to other parts of the country and participate in other Team River Runner chapters as they continue their service, while others who complete the TRR program can return to the group as volunteers.

Seffers said Team River Runner serves vets in any type of rehabilitative status and those who’ve suffered from various injuries including “the normal wounds of war,” that result in amputation, lost motor skill or traumatic brain injury, as well as those who suffer with psychological issues like PTSD or substance abuse.

“It really can vary from veteran to veteran,” she said.

“Team River Runner really welcomes all of them because the process of learning kayaking in a social environment like this, (and) having fun, supports the healing process…whatever that healing needs to be,” she said.

Seffers said it took about a year and a half to “get ducks in row,” for the program.

A Team River Runner chapter must have a pool, a population of veterans, a relationship with a local Veterans Affairs office, volunteers to help with organization and American Canoe Association certified instructors to teach each class.

“It has been a labor of love,” Seffers said.

Each week the Martinsburg VA buses Vets to Shepherd University’s Wellness Center pool where instructors follow a specific curriculum, that includes skilled kayaking practice and rescue techniques.

Once instructors have assessed each student’s progress the chapter heads for real-life waves in the Potomac, though last week’s meeting was filled with relay races and kayaking games in the pool.

“It’s just great fun,” Seffers said.

Team River Runner’s weekly pool sessions are held Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., with river outings held the last Wednesday of every month.

Volunteer training is held on the second Wednesday of every month from 7 to 8 p.m.

More information about the group can be found by visiting www.facebook.com/TeamRiverRunnerShepherd.