Team River helps veterans enjoy kayaking and rafting on the Payette River
BANKS, Idaho – Team river runner Established in 2004, there are now more than 60 chapters across the country, including right here in Idaho, this nonprofit helps veterans get started in paddle sports.
We joined Team River Runner who invited the regional chapters for a three day rafting and kayaking experience on different stretches of the Payette River.
“I love it, I’m an Aquarius, I’m a water sign and I took to it like a fish to water,” said Billy Artie McNeal, an Army veteran from California. “I love the river, I love everything about the river.”
Team River Runner not only provides all the equipment for free, but also runs clinics to teach veterans how to paddle in flat water, they run flat water rolling sessions, they focus on playing rapids and they practice some number of different security techniques. So when paddlers hit wild rivers like the Payette, they’re having fun and staying safe.
“It’s very difficult personally, it’s intimidating and all of a sudden you’re on top of a rapid, you have to go, there’s no turning back,” said Anthony R. Mendoza III, an Army veteran who lives in Middleton. “You can’t press the stop button, there’s no reset.”
Many of these veterans have disabilities, but this nonprofit has opened the doors for these veterans to get out there, do something active, and do it as a team.
“I used to stay home and do nothing because I had PTSD and all these other disabilities,” McNeal said. “Team River Runner took me out, I did Operation Surf, I did stand-up paddleboarding in Washington last week and everything has water you can rely on.”
I was paired with Steven, an Army veteran who is paralyzed from the waist down, but he was able to successfully run the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River, including Howard’s Plunge, a fairly large rapid to complete the day, creating a feeling of euphoria for the whole group.
We caught up with Team River Runner who are on a mission to get kayaking and rafting veterans out. Steven is a disabled Army veteran paralyzed from the waist down and he faced Howard’s Plunge on the Payette. pic.twitter.com/zAQDT3EAAV
— Idaho News 6 (@IdahoNews6) July 20, 2022
“After I’m done with the river I can have a beer, I’ve never done that before, that’s pretty cool man,” McNeal said. “I meet different people, different nationalities, he’s just a great guy, I love him, I wouldn’t give him up for anything.”
Team River Runner is always looking for help in the form of donations or volunteers, Bob Taylor leads the Boise chapter he started in 2015.
“I fell into this, I’m so happy to do it,” Taylor said. “I’m not a veteran myself, but when I found this opportunity, I was so happy to be able to serve those who have served.”
If you’re a veteran here in Idaho, Click here for more information on how to get set up with Team River Runner.