Veterans Ocean Adventures, Inc

Rating: 4.96 stars   25 reviews

Issues: Veterans

Location: 20810 SW 86th Ave Miami FL 33189 USA

Mission: Create an opportunity for veterans to experience the healing power of water. Vision Create an opportunity for disabled veterans to experience open ocean sailing, offshore cruising and scuba diving through collaboration with community partners including the Miami VA and Miami Vet Center. Once participants have completed the Introduction to Water Sports program and express a desire to advance to blue water sailing, Veterans Ocean Adventures provides an introduction to cruising in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. Select participants may continue on to join a leg of an ongoing world circumnavigation.
Results: During FY13, VOA served more than 350 military veterans and their family members by providing free water-sports programming. Through his dedicated efforts, Branson raised more than $35,000, which paid for the costs associated with providing equipment and services (boat rental, fuel, supplies, etc.). He has successfully developed partnerships with a number of other governmental and non-governmental organizations in the community and has provided an opportunity for other US Southern Command employees to volunteer to support the veterans in need. Through VOA, he also provides civilians an opportunity to give back to service members through volunteering—and to learn more about the challenges facing returning military members. In October, Branson was recognized by US Sailing, the national governing body of sailing, as Sailor of the Month for his service to the community through sailing.
Target demographics: Veterans.
Direct beneficiaries per year: over 450 Veterans and their family members
Geographic areas served: South Florida
Programs: sailing, diving and kayaking adventures. We also help coordinate fishing outings as well as sponsor indoor rock climbing.

2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars   Featured Review

5 people found this review helpful

Veterans Ocean Adventures, is "THE" organization that you want to learn about, become a part of, contribute to, and share with your family-friends-coworkers-and anyone that you talk to... Here is my story. I am a disabled Veteran (US Army Infantry, combat). I have been diagnosed with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) from proximity to multiple concussive explosions, neurological damage from contracting West Nile Virus - damaged hypothalamus/frontal lobe/left lobe (resulting in anterograge amnesia [don't form any new memories, so at the end of the day, I know that I will awake with no recall of the day I just had. It is a brand new day, but I am lucky that I am aware that it is not the same day, over and and over again]), autonomic system is out of control so my body can not regulate body temperature - heart rate - blood pressure - sense of hunger - etc, pseudo bulbar affect (inability to control emotions), post viral narcolepsy (take meds to keep me from sleeping 22 hours a day or falling asleep if I stop moving), chronic fatigue syndrome, post viral migraine headaches, damaged ankle/knees/shoulders/and disks in the lower back, photo phobia (light sensitivity) which the Nova Eye Clinic tested me and prescribed filtered eyeglasses, PTSD, and a few other minor things that we deal with on a regular basis... THIS is where Veterans Ocean Adventures comes in. My wife was put in touch with the Veterans Ocean Adventures organization, for a sunset sailing event for military and Veterans. At the time, we spent almost every day at VA doctor appointments or in the hospital. We were desperate! That's when we met the organizations founder and one of his most trusted staff volunteer. From there, as my physical abilities would allow, I was introduced to kayaking, indoor rock climbing, sailing, and SCUBA diving! Veterans Ocean Adventures (VOA) has taken me through certification in small keel sailing skipper, and multiple levels of SCUBA certifications (Open Water Diver/Advanced Open Water Diver/Enriched Air Diver/Specialty Diver/(and perhaps the ones that make me feel the most pride) Rescue / HSA Certified Buddy Diver. I started with VOA as a patron, in need of a family. I am now a volunteer, as my physical abilities and schedule allows, for assisting fellow handicap divers when VOA is able to sponsor SCUBA diving events. Oh yes, one other VERY Important note: My Neurologist highly recommended SCUBA diving for me, after I was medically cleared to do so - especially with VOA and their ability to assist handicap divers, because SCUBA diving has some of the same beneficial effects that the Hyperbaric Chamber has for patients with TBI's! Due to costs, the VA doctors can not get all of us scheduled to get that treatment up in the Tampa VA clinics. SCUBA diving is an inexpensive means of achieving some of the same positive effects as the Hyperbaric Chamber. Please consider donating to this organization. Please help them have an uplifting impact on the lives of Veterans, their families, and other handicap individuals within our community. Thank you, and have a Blessed Day.

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Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I was so grateful for the experience to be a part of a Discover Scuba class with the VOA. I've never had any experience with scuba diving but the VOA and it's individuals is the reason why I had such a wonderful experience.

The individuals of the VOA foster an environment that makes you feel at home because they're just so caring, thinking about the time, energy, money, and logistical feat to hold such a class shows the kind of genuine care that can only happen in those situations. They were there not to make money or some hidden agenda, they were to help people discover scuba and enjoy an activity that has brought so much happiness to themselves.

It takes not only a group of individuals who have a genuine interest in scuba, it also takes a group as the VOA who have that genuine interest in scuba and want to give back to the world through teaching how to scuba to others. I genuinely appreciate all the effort it took by all individuals of the VOA to host such an event. I know i'll be seeing them again in the future.

-Michael

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Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

When I transferred to Miami with the US Coast Guard, I was convinced I wasn’t going to enjoy my next two years in the humidity, seemingly constant traffic congestion and without really knowing anyone in the area. A colleague told me I should go to Wednesday night sailboat racing down the street with 'this great nonprofit that works with vets and likes to do stuff on the water’, Veterans Ocean Adventures. On a whim, I listened to him, not knowing anyone and not sure what I was getting myself into. Immediately, I found myself surrounded by a group nothing short of family-like; everyone I came in contact with, volunteer and patron alike, was friendly and welcoming. Since that Wednesday over two years ago, I’ve become a volunteer - attending many Wednesday night sailboat racing events, scuba diving trips and now becoming a certified HSA Buddy Diver. Working with Branson and the VOA team has been one of the most rewarding I’ve had in my professional and personal life. Helping others, especially vets, enjoy and experience everything the ocean has to offer is an amazing experience to be a part of - there is nothing quite like seeing someone learn to tack a sailboat for their first time or swim through a wreck even though they’re confined to a wheelchair on dry land. As I transitioned off active duty 5 months ago, VOA has been an integral part of my newfound “civilian life” and allowed me to continue helping and working with a group of people our country owes so much too. VOA has been there for so many veterans since its inception - I can only hope that it will continue to serve many many more for years to come.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

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Review from Guidestar
Rating: 5 stars  

2 people found this review helpful

Our son was killed while serving in Afganistan recently. First let me say, this is your worst nightmare as parents. Our son was smart, articulate, intelligent, funny. He was not only our only son, he was also a loving husband and father to 3 small children. He fought and died doing what he believed in, first and foremost. Not everyone agrees on war, yet it is these kinds of people who fight for our freedoms when asked to do so. It is these same people, who are willing to do what most people wouldn't do. It's is these people which the "Veterens Oceans Adventures (VOC)" supports. The ocean has amazing healing capabilities, both visually and physically.

We were invited to attend a VOC event recently, to go sailing. This was the first function with other survivors of which we accepted. We are so very thankful for people like Branson, for thinking of this event and thinking enough to invite and support people like us (survivors).

So much of the time, people will ask us "How can we help? What can we do for you? Ultimately, we say thank you and that is where it ends. This VOC event did help in numerous ways. First, it reminded us that there are people who really care enough to make this their mission in life. Secondly, the ocean was healing from a raw standpoint it provided wind to our sails, allowing us to feel human again. Lastly, it is these types of events which do help heal the wounded and the survivors.

Thank you again for your dedication, your hard work, and your warm heart.

Gold Star Mom

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Give it National funding to support more Veterans and their families.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

Veterans Ocean Adventure is the the non profit that once learned about, everyone wants to be apart of. I am a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist that has partnered and volunteered with Veterans Ocean Adventure for the last 3 years and am proud to be associated with such a great organization. Our U.S Veterans in South Florida has benefited more from the availability of VOA's programs than any other. The reason for this is that they don't settle for helping just one type of Veteran but instead serves them all. No matter the Branch, the era, the age, the disability, the gender, or economic situation. Anyone who has served Honorable deserves an opportunity to discover if any program or activity can support them in their Recovery. Veterans Ocean Adventure provides a therapeutic setting, supported by professionals and volunteers who have the utmost respect for their clients. Having the ability to witness and be a part of this organization has convinced me to become more supportive of our veterans intetrests and instead of facillitating from the sidelines i have become certified in SCUBA, and taken courses in sailing and rock climbing. All in efforts to closely serve our Nations Veterans. I've seen the changes in affect, management of pain, increased confidence, improved communication skills, individuals achieving a new level of independence, pride, and joy. These programs provide more then just a moment of relief, but a great opportunity to be reintegrated in the community with confidence and great support, a family even. One who continues to want to give back. VOA provides an opportunity for Veterans to have purpose again. Whether it is for personal goals or the need to serve again in our community. Many veterans return to VOA as volunteers as well. It is a pleasure working with VOA and I look forward to their continued great work. Please support them support our veterans.

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Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

Veterans Ocean Adventure is a great nonprofit organization that serves our veterans in many arenas. Branson Rector, founder of VOA has created one of the greatest nonprofits in south Florida. He loves serving others and bringing people together in therapeutic sport. He is a great sailing instructor, an excellent scuba buddy, efficient organizer, and an caring individual. VOA has helped many throughout the years. Thank you VOA for giving me the opportunity to scuba dive with you.

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Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

I have been volunteering with Veterans Ocean Adventures for 3 years. I started out as a novice diver and have just become a PADI instructor. I can not adequately explain in words the feelings I get when I see the joy in peoples eyes when they learn to dive. When someone gets out of a wheelchair and into the weightless world of SCUBA diving it is truly amazing! On a personal note, the friendships I have made with the participants and other volunteers are priceless! You should come see what we do in person, I promise it will change your life :-)

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Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

Hi, I am Jose P Lopez Vega a certified HSA volunteer buddy diver with Veterans Ocean Adventure (VOA). For the past 4 years this organization has provided tremendous opportunities for veterans to experience water activities up close. From Sailing to SCUBA diving, veterans gets the best experience ever. VOA is a key organization that also facilitates this activities to the handicap veterans population in the south Florida area. One on one training, and continued coaching to handicap veterans are of the foremost exceptional. Also, volunteers, get the opportunity to be certified as handicap buddy divers to go diving with a handicap divers or get certified to sail keel boats to bring handicap veterans aboard.

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Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

This organization ROCKS for how much they are able to do for veterans and physically and mentally challenged individuals. As an experienced diver, kayaker, and climber with physical limitations, I'm repeatedly impressed every time I participate in volunteer opportunities by the compassion, determination, and generosity of this group. As a donor, volunteer, and with years of experience working with non-profit service groups, this is one of the best!

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Increase their funding base immediately.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2014

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Rating: 5 stars  

4 people found this review helpful

VOA is a great organization. Their love for the ocean is infectious and the team quickly motivates you to share the healing powers of the ocean with them. I have truly embraced SCUBA as another form of therapy and encourage many others to try it. They provide one-on-one step-by-step lessons to accommodate any level. The members of VOA are not only there to help but they also become family. Strongly recommend this organization for individuals going through some form of therapy for PTSD/Anxiety as well as any other person looking to have fun in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.

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