October 27, 2014

WBRC Group goes White Water Rafting on the American River

Written By: Ann Nguyen, WBRC Recreation Therapy Intern

Photo: The WBRC Group at the ETC Campsite

Water splashing upon the shore near the Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) campsite, rapids swelling up at every rocky turn, people filled rafts navigating downstream, ice cold water splashing up from all sides of the raft, and the elated cries of excitement were among some of the powerful images lingering in the minds of eight veterans from the WBRC as they came back from a wondrous white water rafting trip.  On August 15, 2014 WBRC recreation therapists, Rachel Smith and Lindsay Conner, teamed up with ETC certified white water rafting volunteer guides, including David Patten—WBRC visual skills supervisor—and Simone Riente—WBRC social worker—, to provide a whole weekend of white water rafting and camping along the South Fork of the American River.

Photo: The WBRC Group enjoys a meal at the ETC Campsite
From the campsite, to the staff, to the food, all the Veterans were very satisfied with what ETC provided.  After spending the night resting under the stars, the group was oriented to the rafts and embarked on a 12 mile white water journey down the American River.  Before this experience many of the Veterans who went on the trip could not fathom how individuals with visual impairments could navigate the American River and all the rapids it had to offer. 

Photo: WBRC rafters on the America River
“Troublemaker” and “Fowler’s Rock” were among some of the exciting rapids that the Veterans battled through.  With adaptations made on each raft, each individual was able to enjoy the experience to the fullest.  Ingenious ETC staff took a simple lawn chair and duct tape to create secure seats on the raft itself; any wheelchair users definitely had the best seat.  There was a generous amount of staff support provided by ETC, as well, which all contributed to a trip that gave lasting impressions on all the Veterans who were able to attend.  Here were only a few of the comments made on the trip:

“It was the most fun I’ve had in the last 14 years.”

“The rafting trip itself was the most amazing thing I have ever done-sighted or visually impaired… It helped to boost my confidence, decrease my fears and to socialize with other attendees.”

This experience is one that I will remember the rest of my life. I don’t know how to put into words.”   

Photo: A rafter holds a paddle with the following inscription written on it:
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving SAFELY in a PRETTY and WELL-PRESERVED body, but rather to skid in BROADSIDE in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘WOW! WHAT A RIDE!’” – Hunter S. Thompson.
This experience was made possible by a donation from a Veteran who wishes to not be named.  Nevertheless, his selfless act brought life changing joy to many of the Veterans who were able to experience white water rafting for the first time.  Each and everyone one of the Veterans expressed gratitude for the staff, ETC, and the grateful retired US Army Officer for providing an opportunity for this trip.  WBRC to anticipate. 

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