Kelah Raymond-Garner, a volunteer and a veteran

The wings of the Sailing Angels Organization also embrace war veterans. These courageous men and women find a valuable therapeutic aid in their transitional journey to civilian life. En españolKelah in the Army copy (1)

“The experience is unsurmountable” says former Army Sargent Kelah Raymond, war veteran who now works in the corporate world. We talked to Kelah during a morning sail with the Sailing Angels organization.

“Vets have an opportunity to sit back, and get into non-thinking mode; sitting back and enjoying the calm of nature, not thinking about their ailments, or whatever has brought them to the place of being in a vet program.”

“The camaraderie remains intact,” Kelah added. “Even though the vets sailing together Kelah - Ahviandon’t know each other they have the same experiences, difficulties and challenges in common.”

Sergeant Raymond affirms that the majority of “Modern” war veterans are not older than 29 years old. However, on this morning’s sail there was a much older veteran whose presence reminded her of her own father.

Kelah’s father was an ex-marine that overcame addictions caused by combat experiences and extended separation from loved ones. “The sooner the healing begins, the sooner you are healed” said Kelah.

Helping in this healing process is precisely the reason why Kelah decided to become a volunteer with Sailing Angels three years ago.

“With vets, I speak their language,” said Kelah. Her ability was acquired through her military experience and also through her work in corporate human resources.kelah - boatswain chair 5

She relates to them as they share their battlefield memories in the middle of a calm morning sail. Kelah feels peace and serenity in them as they share their experiences.

Kelah Raymond’s transition to civilian life was relatively simple, she affirmed. And now from her current position she can help veterans in their process of assimilation into civilian life.

They bring leadership to the corporate world, the discipline to execute without questioning; they get the job done even when they disagree.

“They collaborate, foster camaraderie, have a high sense of loyalty, they’re open to diversity, and perform well in dangerous situations. All this makes them exceptional employees,” said Kelah.

Kelah, through her corporate job and her volunteer work with Sailing Angels contributes her “Grain of sand” to help veterans heal and move forward in the same process she experienced.

“I’ve walked in their shoes and so I get it,” Kelah concluded.

Project Victory Sets Sail to Therapy

The military personnel and veterans in Project Victory’s brain injury rehabilitation program are benefiting from a unique program that is literally setting sail to their therapy. The nonprofit organization is powered by volunteers who provide recreational therapy through sailing for individuals with cognitive and motor deficits. Christine Wiegman, Project Victory Social Worker, and Michael Furtado, Physical Therapist, have accompanied Project Victory clients on numerous outings with Captain Dave McCabe. Day sailing excursions with Captain McCabe have proven highly beneficial for the men and women participants in project Victory. Christine Wiegman said, “The experience of sailing helps our clients practice relaxation strategies that decrease their stress response and anxiety. The rhythmical soldiermovement of the boat and reduced noise create a calm environment that is difficult to replicate to an activity filled rehabilitation center. The sensory stimuli created by a boat as it moves through the waves and changes course with the wind also helps mediate balance deficits often experienced by individuals who have sustained a brain injury. When our clients ambulate around the boat, hoist a sail, or take the helm, they’re integrating their visual field with their physical environment to remain balanced.” The benefits of sailing as a recreational therapy go beyond balance, coordination, and relaxation. There is a lot of teamwork, communication, and social interaction involved in sailing.

Noah and Cameron

Dear Captain Dave,

Everyone had an extraordinary time! You all are providing such an amazing opportunitynoah for families like ours. On a side note: I have never, ever seen my boys so relaxed and focused. Especially my younger son, Noah. He was so focused and thrilled about sailing that boat! And, to see my older, Cameron to not be consumed with anxiety was also extraordinary! I cried tears of joy with my husband when I told him about our day. Thank you again, for providing such a wonderful day of sailing!!

Joshua Did It!

“As 2014 comes to an end, I can’t help but reminisce what this year has brought us…. joshuaHealth, trips, toys, family, friends… But above all JOY! Eight years ago, my son Joshua was  diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that I knew nothing about except that I knew my son would do many of the things doctors said he wouldn’t.

“One of the wonderful people that has touched our lives is Capt. Dave.  He is not a captain of the biggest vessel you can think of… but he does have one of the biggest hearts! Joshua has been sailing with Captain Dave for about 2 years now; he has been able to drive the boat, wear the captain’s hat and even raise the sail! Joshua has been able to do many of the things that doctors said he wouldn’t.

‘Our sails on Galveston Bay not only help with Joshua’s gross motor skills (getting on and off the boat, keeping his balance, pulling on ropes) but it also helps with his cognitive development, his curiosity and speech. Every sail is an experience for us to talk about “who lives in the ocean.” We have seen seagulls, flying fish and in some lucky days we have also seen dolphins!!! But nothing compares to the true joys of the simple things in life like wearing the captain’s hat or getting that beautiful medal of accomplishment at the end of every sail…

‘We thank the Sailing Angels, Capt. Dave and his crew of volunteers who open up their hearts and sail boats to help many children with special needs experience something that many couldn’t otherwise experience. To a very successful 2015 and to many, many sails more together!!!”

Maisie’s Amazing Experience

“My daughter Maisie who is 5 years old and has Down Syndrome, had an opportunity toKelah and Maisie take part in a sailing trip with The Sailing Angels Foundation. This was a once in a lifetime experience and one of the most amazing experiences for her as well as myself. I wasn’t sure of how to prepare Maisie for the trip but figured she would have a good time on the water and boy was I right! Once we got situated in the boat and was ready to launch into the water, Maisie started singing “Row, row, row your boat.” This really took everyone by surprise because she start singing a very fitting song and it was a song that I didn’t even know she knew. We all joined in and sang it with her as we happily sailed away in the water.

“This made the trip get off to a great start. During the boat ride, Maisie had a chance to put on the Sailor’s hat and steer the wheel with some assistance. She absolutely loved it and kept wanting another turn at steering. It was so serene and tranquil being on the water and it seemed to have removed all the cares in the world…at least for that moment. I am looking forward to Maisie’s next sailing trip and can’t wait to see what new thing she will say or do to express her excitement for being on the boat for another sailing adventure!”