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2015 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Veterans Ocean Adventures, Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Military & Veterans Organizations, Veterans

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.

Community Stories

37 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Branson, I want to deeply thank you for the opportunity of diving with VOA. The experience lived yesterday was completely out of this world and I’m very thankful to have been able to participate. I was very impressed by the preparations and skill that the dive master and dive buddies have, but most of all, the vocation that they offer to assist Veterans as well as SCI divers always with a smile. Although this is not my first dive with VOA I could’ve never imagined I would interact in such a personal and up close way with Veterans and currently in the Military people and enjoy such amazing activities, it increases our networking abilities not only narrowed to people in my type of injury (SCI) but also share happy moments and memories with the people that fought for our country and are still here to enjoy the wonders of the world, thanks to organizations like Veterans Ocean Adventures. Deeply thankful and I look forward for our next trip. Jose Lizarralde

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization epitomizes what a non-profit should look like. Completely focused on serving the needs of the people they support, and doing so selflessly without any financial reward whatsoever. The desire to serve and the gratitude of the people they help is all the reward they need, and what truly motivates them.

As a newly certified HSA Buddy Diver, I can tell you that didn’t come without substantial effort and commitment. That said, this was but a very small fraction of the time and effort continuously invested by Branson Rector and dive instructor James Paddon, the dedicated individuals that founded and run the VOA.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

i really have to say that I'm really thankful for this experience and the great volunteers that made this possible for us, this was something that i always wanted to do but i was afraid i could experience a panic attack since i suffer from anxiety, it was a little uncomfortable at beginning but then i started to feel more comfortable breathing under water and then i was calmed and i could control my breathing , i felt i was taking more clean deep breaths under water than on the ground, this is gave me more confidence to overcome and control my anxiety and panic attacks and it's also going to help to tolerate my sleep apnea mask at night. Thank you very much. Great team

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Top notch organization with volunteers who care about helping vets, most being veterans themselves.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Veterans Ocean Adventures is a first class operation! I have been completely impressed with the caliber of services and the amazing impact this organization has had on so many veterans. VOA offers a much-needed diversion for many vets who could use a little break from time to time, from the stresses associated with their service to the country. VOA gives back to these men and women who have sacrificed a so much, and in a way that is challenging, enjoyable, rewarding, and safe. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to volunteer with VOA!

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

Excellent, these dive events are so therapeutic and calming. I do not have to use sleep meds for at least three days after diving with VOA.

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

The scuba diving was very organized, very safe for the disabled and all other divers. The ultimate objective was achieved, the experience was challah ginger but FUN. Adaptive diving at its best.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

The scuba instructions were clear and precise. The demonstrations were repeated several times and easy to follow. The challenge of the scuba lesson was with my own personal anxieties and learning curve. However, James my instructor was extremely patient and supportive. I thought it was great that each novice scuba student was paired 1:1 with an instructor.

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had a great time diving with Veteran Ocean Adventures. It was a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere. I enjoyed spending the day with fellow veterans who had similar interests . I was also impressed by the effort put forth to accommodate those with disabilities. I would like to volunteer to help this organization in the future.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Veterans Ocean Adventure is a great Nonprofit Organization that care and that is helping veterans like me veterans with disability. Is given me an other veterans the opportunity to experience something beautiful, the ocean and also giving me the opportunity to help others veterans. Thank you so much for Veteran Ocean Adventure, they have given me a second chance.
I'll always be grateful!!!!

7

Client Served

Rating: 5

Veterans Ocean Adventure is a great nonprofit organization that serves our veterans in many arenas. As a disabled veteran I thought there was nothing I can do anymore felt useless. I used to dive over 20 years ago. They exposed me to scuba and I was so thrilled I could dive again. I am now looking forward to more outings with VOA, I hope one day I can volunteer.

9

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Veterans Ocean Adventures Earth Day Dive.
So today was a very humbling experience for me. I spent the day SCUBA Diving with Veterans battling with PTSD, paralysis and other disabilities. Not only did I get to dive with sharks, sea turtles, stingrays and see these awesome reefs, it also made me reflect on how fortunate I am and how precious life is. It gave me a sense of pride in seeing how these heroes have made the decision to continue to move forward despite their physical and psychological struggles. The cool thing is that Veterans Ocean Adventures is funded by the generous donations of citizens who want to help out those who have given so much for their country and the Founder, Branson Rector, takes zero monies from it – it is 100% for the Disabled Veterans. There’s a-lot to be said about that, he invest 100% of the donations to The Cause to include his spare time. A hero in every sense of the word. .. as are all those who volunteer their time, efforts and skills. Refreshing to see Americans speaking with actions rather than words – STRONG WORK!

http://veteransoceanadventures.org/index.php?home=mission

10

Client Served

Rating: 5

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

9 CGMeg

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

Review from Guidestar

10

Client Served

Rating: 5

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

11

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

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.

12

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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 :-)

12

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

11 Darcy5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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!