BECKLEY, W.Va. — A new program aimed at offering veterans an opportunity to heal through paddle sports is available in southern West Virginia.
Team River Runner (TRR) Beckley is only the second chapter of its kind in West Virginia. The other is located in Shepherdstown.
Two leaders of the Beckley chapter spoke to MetroNews affiliate WJLS about the initiative. Coordinator Brian Sullivan and Social Media Director Roy Bovee are veterans and want to help others through their own experiences.
The program offers training and trips in paddle sports. The YMCA of Southern West Virginia has offered their indoor pool to TRR-Beckley for water training.
“That’s why we came into this,” said Bovee. “It’s a way of us being better and giving back and it’s healing. When we go out here on the water and when we do these training exercises its ‘hey, my name’s Roy. I’ve been in Iraq, I’ve been in your shoes’. There’s a bond that will forever be there. I think that’s what’s great.”
Sullivan admitted his transition back to civilian life was difficult but getting involved in activities helped them.
“I know that there’s a whole health initiative in the community to help veterans get away from the standard treatment (like) medications and substance use and get them into alternative things. It’s a good change. It’s a focus on something I think that’s really going to make a difference in a lot of veterans in southern West Virginia and in our community.”
Both agreed it’s also a great way for local veterans to explore the opportunities right in their backyard.
“That’s part of what we want to do too is familiarize them with some of the things that we have. I’m relatively new to kayaking so this is a learning experience for myself. Even being from this area I don’t know a lot of the streams, the put ins and the take outs. I’m learning where all of these things are and I know that they’re going to learn that as well.”
TRR-Beckley is a non-profit organization. Sullivan said since they started in May, they have already received assistance from various businesses and community members.
“We’re excited about it. We can’t wait to see this thing grow. I want to see it grow faster than it’s already growing. In time it will really take off and grow and we’ll get to do a lot of really neat things with our veterans.”