The Bozeman Swim Center is the site of free kayaking lessons for local veterans. On January 1, 2019, Jesse Kula and Anne Lohfink, the new volunteer co-coordinators of the Bozeman chapter of Team River Runner (TRR), welcomed veterans seeking a healthy and fun start to the new year. TRR is a national nonprofit adventure and adaptive kayaking and paddling program, with 60 chapters in 34 states, for all veterans, including those wounded or disabled. With a team of volunteers, weekly paddling sessions in the pool have become a regular event for veterans and their families. Veterans are encouraged to learn the sport, and then take on leadership roles helping other veterans or individuals in Bozeman with disabling conditions.
Team River Runner rents the Bozeman Swim Center, which includes two pools, so swim lessons are also offered to veterans and their families—a unique addition to this chapter of TRR. Paddling skills developed indoors during colder months help participants when they head out to nearby lakes as the weather warms up. Paddling on the lake also includes games of kayak football, a fun combination of kayaking, football, and hockey skills. This is a popular and unique way to add camaraderie and further develop paddling skills. TRR hosts several national veteran kayak football tournaments, and the Bozeman chapter hopes to field a team for the tournament held each Veterans Day in the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.
In addition to lake paddling in the summer, the TRR Bozeman chapter also has regular river trips for those who have developed the necessary skills. Rafting is also a welcome addition to this paddling program, and veterans and their families are welcome to step it up on local whitewater trips. Montana has world class whitewater paddling; getting those who have served our nation the opportunity to paddle these rivers safely and competently are a main goal of the Bozeman TRR chapter.
For more than 10 years, TRR has brought wounded and disabled veterans from all over the nation to Paradise Valley for an OuttaSight Leadership Clinic. This unique program pairs a blind or visually disabled veteran with a skilled, sighted veteran instructor and guide. It is the only program in the world that confidently and safely allows blind veterans the opportunity to paddle whitewater in their own solo kayak. Sighted river guides use voice commands, “On me. On me. On me,” to direct the visually impaired veterans. The volunteers and veterans of the Bozeman chapter are hard at work building the veteran and volunteer paddlers needed to staff and coordinate this groundbreaking adaptive paddling program. Additionally, after many successful clinics, there is a waiting list of OuttaSight veterans hoping to return to Paradise Valley and the Yellowstone River. The Bozeman chapter of TRR is ready and willing to help coordinate and staff alumni OuttaSight Clinics as well. Businesses and residents of Paradise Valley strongly support the veteran group with meals and other assistance while in town.
In just over a year, the Bozeman TRR chapter is building a lifestyle adventure and paddling program for veterans and their families. For more information about Team River Runner, visit www.teamriverriver.org. To learn more about the Bozeman chapter, visit: Team River Runner, Bozeman chapter on Facebook or at this link!