By Will Fairless
This weekend, Wake for Warriors will be holding one of its watersports therapy programs on Lake Harding in Georgia. This weekend’s wakesurfing event will include about 15 disabled veterans, whose lodging and food will be provided by Wake for Warriors.
Dave Deep founded the organization in 2012, and they’ve since held events such as this weekend’s in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, Washington state and North Carolina.
Deep served as a Marine, and he said of watersports, “It was my way that I would be able to relax, getting behind the boat. That was my getaway.” He founded Wake for Warriors so that he could share this form of therapy with other veterans, particularly those who were injured while serving.
The therapeutic benefits of the program go beyond those found on the water. After a day of boating and wakesurfing (breaking only to refuel the boats and participants), the group of veterans gathers for dinner and conversation. “That’s where the magic happens,” Deep said, “People start connecting and building those friendships.” Then they do it all again the next day.
Deep said the feedback he gets from the participants is great. They report feeling relaxed but challenged and making strong friendships as a result of the relationship-pressure-cooker weekend. “The coolest thing is that you get these three or four people, who most likely have not met each other and have never done this before, on a boat,” Deep said, “and within 10 to 15 minutes, they’re all cheering for each other, encouraging each other.”
The benefits of the program are not limited to the weekends of the events any more than they are to the time on the water. Deep said the Wake for Warriors family is a tight one, in which the members take care of each other, particularly by sharing information on counseling and other programs that might be helpful. “We get a lot of positive feedback,” Deep said, “even, ‘I was thinking about doing something really dumb, and this has encouraged me to keep going.’”
Wake for Warriors is a nonprofit, and it’s run completely by volunteers. These weekends rely heavily on the generosity of their host communities. For example, this weekend, the participating veterans will stay in the homes of people living around Lake Harding who’ve volunteered that service. Some food will be provided by local restaurants and catering companies. A local gas company will be providing 100 gallons of gas to help keep the boats running all weekend.
Anyone can donate at wakeforwarriors.com, which donations go to travel, lodging, fuel and food costs. The money also helps Wake for Warriors provide special apparatuses so that veterans who use wheelchairs can enjoy the watersports as well as the rest can. Sign-up forms for future events can be found at the same website.