Team River Runner is a national organization that works to promote health and healing for disabled veterans through paddle sports and other related activities. In the individual chapters we work with vets to teach them how to control their kayak in the pool or other flat water then take them out onto moving water and eventually white water. Thanks to donations and grants this program is completely free for the vets and their families. We supply all the boats and gear needed and the instruction comes from volunteer ACA certified kayak guides. As participants grow in the program TRR provides the opportunity for the vets to become ACA certified and they become the next generation of instructors.
Training Camp is a regional event where we bring together participants from the 6 chapters of the Central Rockies Region to Buena Vista CO for a weekend of kayaking and comradery. The idea for and the name “Training Camp” came from one of my first experiences in a kayak. After attempting to just float down the river at high water in a new kayak I just bought, and getting my ass kicked, I decided to take some lessons. I hooked up with an organization called Colorado Whitewater out of Denver and took their training camp in Cotopaxi CO on the Arkansas river. It was a great event with people of all ability levels coming together to learn and have a good time. It was so much fun, I felt like I was with family. Ever since I got involved with TRR I envisioned doing a program similar to theirs and in 2017 the chance presented itself.
For several years there had been an informal TRR regional gathering in BV for the annual Paddlefest event put on by CKS and the city of BV. It is an awesome event with professional kayakers coming from all over the world to compete, vendors showing off their new gear and all kinds of shenanigans. As a region we would come camp and paddle during the day then hit the festivities in the evening. But the opportunity came up to turn it into the Training Camp I had imagined, national wanted to see more instruction at the event.
The idea was to make the event more formal and bring an instructional element into it. To make it all inclusive so that more people could join, including beginners. So many of our regional events are set up so that only one or two people from each chapter can join because of budget or skill level requirements. It also needed to have something for the kids and spouses to do to make it more of a family event.
The main goals of training camp
- Bring the different chapters together for a good dose of comradery
- Have multiple levels of instruction so that everyone can learn
- Provide a safe environment for learning
- Have a program for the kids while the parents are on the water
- Good food
- Be open to everyone in the region
- Be annual so people can see their progression over the years.
The event was a huge success with 17 veterans, 5 family members including 3 kids from two families, and 6 volunteers. 7 of the vets got to experience their first time on the river and they did extremely well, at least three of them are hooked for life. It was the biggest regional event to date. We got on the river Saturday, Sunday and Monday and it was great to watch the kayakers improve over the three days. We wrapped up the boating on Monday with a trip down Browns Canyon, a world class river canyon that brings in people from all over, it was the highlight of the trip. A couple of months after the event, 4 of the vets that had been acting as junior guides were sent to a clinic to become ACA certified. Bringing together all the different chapters to share ideas really helped to promote growth in the region and in the individuals.
The camp site was donated by a local land owner that is a veteran himself and we got to camp right on the river.
A girl that worked for me running kids classes came out and played games with the kids while everyone else was on the water. We had amazing volunteers that lead classes, cooked for everyone, took care of camp, ran shuttles and everything else. We had food and firewood donated from a local nonprofit. We brought the entire thing in under budget thanks to some extra donations and our hard working volunteers.