Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rejuvenating Experiences on Water; Disabled, Homeless Veterans Kayak for Free, Thanks to Irishwaterdogs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rejuvenating Experiences on Water; Disabled, Homeless Veterans Kayak for Free, Thanks to Irishwaterdogs

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

Their vans rolled in early Sunday from veterans programs in Jacksonville, Gainesville and Lake City, ready for a breakfast on Big Talbot Island.

Then 42 disabled and homeless veterans rowed out of Kayak America into Simpson Creek on a free four-hour Irishwaterdogs Warriors adventure.

Started in 2011 by Irish outdoors enthusiast Dave McDaid as a way to give back to the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the outings are funded by Irishwaterdogs, the Jacksonville resident's 7-year-old kayak and sporting goods company in High Springs. Now about 1,200 veterans kayak on the first Sunday of each month in Warriors programs in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Tampa, High Springs and Miami as well as 11 cities in eight other states.

"A lot [of soldiers] were coming back disabled, and the PTSD was a drain on them, seeing them cut off from their young kids and families they were disconnected with," McDaid said. "I wanted to create a program just for these guys and their families so they could come back and renew that relationship and share experiences."

Tony St. Angelo was discharged from the U.S. Army in 2007 after duty that included being part of an honor guard at about 500 military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Homeless now, he lives at the HONOR Center (providing Hope, Opportunities, Networking, Outreach and Recovery) in Gainesville as he takes business courses at Santa Fe College. When McDaid presented information on the kayak trips six months ago at the center, St. Angelo said he saw it as a way to get back in the "mainstream."

"Sometimes, we get caught up in the darkness, and when someone gets pulled out of that they see the mainstream of life and how there is a lot more to life, and you have to go out and experience it," he said. "... The reason I like to come out is to see everybody else. It is most definitely a positive experience, and it is relaxing."

McDaid was living in Brooklyn, N.Y., when terrorist attacks hit there, Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he decided to move to "the furthest point from New York" and settled in San Francisco. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.