WASHINGTON, D.C.—Five members of the Congressionally Chartered Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) are joining together for first ever historic attempt of blinded veterans kayaking 226 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in early September. Under the umbrella of BVA Operation Peer Support (OPS) program for Gulf War I and Gulf War II era veterans, four army veterans and one Navy veteran they will spend a week of September 1-12, 2018 kayaking some of the most difficult water rapids in the United States. For over seven months they have been in training with experts from the non-profit Team River Runner that promotes kayaking and team water recreational programs for disabled veterans.
Team River Runner (TRR), a non-profit organization adaptive paddling adventure program for wounded and disabled veterans, their family members, and other non- military disabled paddlers in communities across the nation. TRR began service to the returning wounded at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in 2004, and since their formation, has put over 10,000 veterans into kayaks in more than 60 Chapters nationwide.
The Colorado River BVA team is led by Dave Robey, a retired Navy Captain and the Program Director of TRR and blinded Navy BVA veteran Lonnie Bedwell. Lonnie said “These veterans are demonstrating to the public their accomplishments to inspire others with disabilities to continue to participate in recreational and social activities."
Navy Desert Storm veteran Lonnie Bedwell is the groups team coordinator, he was first blinded veteran in history in 2013, 2015, and then again in 2016 Lonnie kayaked the Grand Canyon 222 miles. Lonnie said “increased cooperation and understanding between these veterans constantly builds confidence. In addition, participants have built life -long friendships, share knowledge of blind and visually impaired advances and exchange insights and personal experiences regarding their own adjustments to blindness.” Lonnie is nationally known as he has kayaked the Grand Canyon three times now, with this fourth journey started September 1st . He kayaked the Upper Gauley and Zambezi Rivers, both Class V world renowned rivers. He is Instructional Coordinator of many of TRR's Outtasight and Vision Team Clinics. For more information, please contact Lonnie at 812-648-2373.
-WHAT: Blinded Veterans Association Veterans Join with Team River Runner challenge 226 miles of Grand Canyon Colorado River. (www.bva.org)
-WHEN: September 1-12, 2018.
-WHERE: The 12-day journey started at Lees Ferry and end at Diamond Creek near Flagstaff, Arizona the five OPS members along with TRR kayaking instructors, with other volunteers helping navigate the Grand Canyon white water category five rapids for this week. https://inreach.garmin.com/textmessage/viewmsg?mo=5b34fd596f804882ba4faa55d21ba872&adr=%2b12528223486
-OFFICIAL U.S. PARTICIPANTS: Ret. Army Corporal Steve Baskis; Corporal Travis Fugate; LTC Kathy Champion (Ret. Army); and Corporal Brian Harris (Ret. Army); Gulf War Era Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell (Ret.) will be the five blinded OPS veterans.
The first blinded army female veteran to do the Colorado River, and Brian Harris who is blind and lower extremity amputee are two of the amazing BVA participants. We all welcome interviews prior to or after the event. https://youtu.be/NzHsSm2HhJw