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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

56 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

3 Tim F.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

6 years ago, started an adventure with by dive buddy Chuck Kays. Chuck is visually impaired and sees mere shadows, however Chuck loves to snow ski and scuba dive. No matter how old or what happens to us we remain adrenaline junkies.On this trip to Miami with VOA, Veterans Ocean Adventures was the beginning of Blind Guy Photography! We had a plan for the dive, no lobster, no spear fishing, ETC. So, I jokingly said, "Chuck will take some pictures." Little did we know that a Canon G10 LED video screen would allow Chuck to see images under water.When I handed Chuck the camera, he started swimming around taking pictures. For the first time he could see more than shadows around him. We realized on an earlier dive in the spring that Chuck could recognize a yellow shirt up to about 10' away. That was our first added safety gear. Now we have a collection of yellow shirts.As we swam around Chuck was taking pictures of the structure that he could make out there shadows better through the camera. We have full face mask on to communicate while underwater.To take more pictures, Chuck would follow down the yellow sleeve of my shirt to my hand and take a picture of whatever I was pointing to. The pictures have gotten better over the years as we have upgraded the cameras and added video light. On some days Chuck can even see the grid on the camera screen.Between June and Thanksgiving of 2013, Chuck made more than 40 dives, many with VOA. Chuck enjoying the thrill and freedom of underwater photography.Chuck also helps to train other divers to dive with a visually impaired dive buddy during Veterans Ocean Adventures diver training.Will you be one of Chuck Kays, Blind Guy Photography, dive buddies?I love diving with Chuck and appreciate the opportunities we have with Veterans Ocean Adventures.You will often find me in a yellow shirt but don't be surprise if I sometime look like Santa.All Pictures shown were taken by Chuck Kays,Sincerely,Tim Fernan, SCUBA Santa

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a part of VOA has greatly increased my quality of life in S Florida. I am eternally grateful for the culture, activities, and interactions made possible by this great non-profit organization.

Previous Stories
5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

By far VOA is one of the best things I’ve experienced in Florida. Even though I’m labeled a “volunteer” and “facilitator,” I feel like I get at least as much (if not more) out of these events than the adaptive divers. And since relocating to Florida I’ve had a major lull in my time spent around military personnel. I have much enjoyed being reunited with this culture.

1 J Todd E.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The VOA has provided me the ability to connect with other veterans and together experience the healing power of water. I found diving to be therapeutic and I was thrilled to be given the opportunity by the VOA to serve as a buddy diver and bring other vets suffering from wounds, both seen and unseen, into the depths of our beautiful Florida reefs to feel the same relief I do.

2 Tiffany Pixie D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was able to attend one of VOA's water adventure days -- a morning kayak, a lunch, and an afternoon dive, and I was impressed from start to finish. The nonprofit is professional, friendly, attentive, and so needed. Our vets need love, support, camaraderie, and a sense of purpose. VOA gives it to them with a healthy dose of salt water therapy. VOA takes vets and their families out to kayak, sail, stand up paddleboard, and dive. I've interviewed participants about the effect that VOA trips have had on them, and the comments are astounding and heart-warming.

2 AnthonyC

Client Served

Rating: 5

I’m a Marine OEF veteran and being with others that share the same type of background along with a love for the ocean is awesome. I never thought I would be scuba diving but VOA has made that dream come true. I strongly believe that activities like the ones offered by VOA are crucial for veteran’s mental health and well being.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have always enjoyed being around water but the thought of scuba diving terrified me. One of my coworkers convinced me to try Discover Scuba through Veterans Ocean Adventures. I really enjoyed the experience because the volunteers were so patient and reassuing. I even went on to complete the Padi Open water Diver Course. Everyone at Veteran's Ocean Adventures was wonderful but I would like to send an extra thank you to Tyler, James and Branson.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

As both a volunteer and client from the early days, I have been around to see the GREAT impact that VOA has had on the veteran population of South Florida. Branson and James have touched so many, albeit Sailing, Kayaking, Diving, Couples Sails and even climbing walls! The impact of seeing these Warriors go from anxious, timid and even broken beings participating in the activities offered by VOA, to confident, engaged and competent participants through the steady, calm mentoring of the VOA volunteers is a testament to this group.
BRAVO ZULU VOA!

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Ever since my husband started participating in VOA our life’s have change. VOA provides each individual with unique opportunities to explore new adventures. With his physical and mental disabilities VOA has given him a new reason to move forward. He is happy and in a good mood, even though he is in pain he has a positive attitude towards life. He also volunteers with them helping other veterans have a positive experience with healing power of water. VOA has changed his life. I’m thankful to have VOA be a part of our life.

Previous Stories
11

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!!!!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have always enjoyed being around water but the thought of scuba diving terrified me. I was talked into trying the Discover Scuba by one of my co-workers who convinced me that the volunteers at VOA would ensure my safety. He was right. After working with the volunteers I felt comfortable enough to try the Padi Open Water Diver course. Great job by all and thanks to James and Branson.

3 Steve H.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with this organization for almost 10 tens. It has been amazing to see how the healing power of water can make such a difference in the lives of those suffering from disabilities. I've got many wonderful stories, but I'll share just one. We were on a dive in the Florida Keys and with us was a veteran who was paralyzed from the waist down. It was his first time to get in the ocean as a diver. Because it was his first time, we all paid extra attention to him. Not long after he got in the water, I swam close to him, close enough to see his eyes through the mask. What I saw were tears in his eyes. It was so emotional for him to be able to be "free" and be able to "move" underwater, that it brought tears to his eyes. I'll never forget the moment and am proud that I was part of the effort to get him in the water.

3 Michelle E.6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I recently joined the VOA family as a buddy diver/volunteer. I can’t express into words how much this experience has impressed me on so many levels. James and Branson’s level of commitment to Vets and bringing them such motivating experiences is absolutely amazing. Connecting to the watery world is inspiring in itself and to be able to reach people who may otherwise not be able to experience the Ocean world is such a wonderful thing. I’m thankful to be a part of it.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm a civilian volunteer introduced to VOA by my girlfriend who is a veteran/volunteer . I truly enjoy diving with team VOA and can't say enough about the important work Branson Rector and James Paddon do. Nothing can replace the healing power of water and i hope VOA can grow large enough to reach as many vets as possible.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a disabled Veteran and scuba diver, I was very interested when I heard about Veterans ocean Adventures (VOA). I have been involved with VOA for just over a year and have experienced great diving experiences and so much more. The program provides therapy through fun and healthy activities and allows me to connect with other Veterans. The program has kept me focused on maintaining health and has helped with my mental outlook. I recommend this program to every Veteran I know who enjoys being on the water and I look forward to completing the training program so that I may assist disabled Veterans who need assistance during their dives.

3 MP4Lyfe

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’m a disabled veteran, who with a giant step outside of my comfort zone I became a Buddy Diver for my brothers and sisters. There are disabled veterans that are in worse situations than I am in and some that are in better situations. I became a Buddy Diver through a grant from Veterans Ocean Adventures inc.(VOA inc.). I have been on numerous ocean dives and a few less pool dives (Discover Scuba Diving) than I would have liked as a Buddy Diver. I love this organization. This organization allows me to continue the mission. I might no longer be in the military but thanks to VOA inc. I still feel I have a purpose and a place to continue to serve. I know VOA inc. also has a sailing program that benefits disabled veterans/ veterans as well. All the veterans that I have spoke with in regards to the sailing aspect, have had nothing but awesome and great things to say about the sailing program. VOA inc. doesn’t care if you’re a quad/ para-plegic, amputee, if you have disabilities that are not visible or just a veteran. They are there to assist you and have you express yourself through the Healing Powers of Water. I wouldn’t be where I am today without VOA inc. I wish more veterans can experience this great organization. See you in the water M. Ochmanski.

4 Robert L. H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a professional sailing instructor with numerous certifications from US Sailing, including that as a Basic Keelboat Instructor Trainer. (That means I train and certify instructors.) I began volunteering with VOA in 2012, shortly after I retired from the Coast Guard. Since then I have given over 140 volunteer hours as an instructor, racing coach, and instructor trainer. I have always been impressed by the quality of the volunteers who Branson Rector has recruited, and the enthusiasm of the veterans who've participated in his programs. I can only hope that this experience has been as rewarding for the participants as it has been for me.

4 Polett

Client Served

Rating: 5

I only have GREAT things to say about VOA. Thanks to them I was able to get back in the water, dive, sail and be free

Previous Stories
13

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a participant and volunteer for VOA I can wholeheartedly say this Organization is a One Of A Kind. Its Founder/President, Branson Rector is someone who dedicates so much time to helping participants that I wonder if he ever sleeps. VOA makes it a point to ensure EVERYONE benefits from every single program offered, myself included.

I am very thankful to have found them and hope to continue diving for years to come!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’m a volunteer in VOA. This group brings me lots of fun and great memories. People are friendly, generous, and willing to give help. Wonderful experience with them!

3 Dave S.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I know and have seen the great work and services the volunteers of VOA have provided to veterans in need. The benefit of the services provided is clearly evident in the smiles and laughter of the veterans. I had the honor to partner with VOA and a SCUBA diving event for multiple years. The feedback from the veterans was overwhelming positive and they asked to return each year. Many of the organizations partner on projects to share resources, equipment and expertise and I personally can attest to highest level of commitment and uncommon compassion provided by the volunteers of VOA. If you are considering to support an organization which provides 100% of resources to veterans you cannot find a better cause.

5

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.

7

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

7

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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

8

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!

9

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.

10

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.

9

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.

10

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.

6

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

10

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.

13

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

14

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

13 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

14

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

15

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.

15

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.

14

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 :-)

13

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.

12 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!

12 Karen311

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

13

Client Served

Rating: 5

Veterans Ocean Adventures is probably the best, most hand-on Veteran service Organization I know. I have attended several events over the last 4 years. They have all always treated me with respect and have gone out of their way to make me feel welcomed. I hope to be able to continue to be involved for a long time with the organization.

VOA is in the ground, with the vets providing support for us in all different aspects, from recreation, to knowledge sessions, to personal development, to networking and support for other endeavors within the veteran community.

I have personal experience with all of the above mention services. I have attended several of their courses from SCUBA, to Sailing, to Rock Climbing, etc.., I am now certified SCUBA diver thanks to their amazing program and staff. I have received continuous advice on dealing with civilian life as a veteran from the staff, and I have also received professional advice and help while I was tasked to find employment for veterans.

I have been diagnosed with severe PTSD and several physical problems such as chronic back, knee and shoulder pain. They still give me the opportunity to hang out and do things to whatever my limit is. I am extremely grateful for their existence and the fact that I got to know them and their staff.

I hope to be able to become a volunteer soon so I can start giving back to some veterans what Veterans Ocean Adventures has given to me.

12

Client Served

Rating: 5

VOA is an outstanding organization. Before a recent deployment to Afghanistan, my family and I took advantage of a catamaran cruise for military members and families with VOA . This was an invaluable opportunity for our family to be together before being separated for a long period of time. The memory of being together on the water for a day of sailing kept me going during the challenging days of my deployment. After the deployment my wife and I took advantage of a couples cruise for returning veterans. Again VOA provided an invaluable opportunity for my wife and I to reconnect and to share experiences with other military family couples. VOA is a superb non-profit with a great mission and focus of serving our military members.

10

Donor

Rating: 5

I love donating to this charity not only because our vets are underserviced in general, but also because every penny directly benefits the vets. It is an all volunteer organization, but they do have expenses, e.g., specially outfitting sailboats so injured vets can sail them. The vets love their ocean sailingtrips, their diving excursions, etc. The organization has many more inquiries than it can accomodate, so they need to expand. We can help them do that with even a small donation. I feel that even one small donation lets the vets know someone appreciates their sacrifices. Thanks to Elizabeth and Rosanna Bernstein for making me aware of this great organization.

10 Cynthia81

Client Served

Rating: 5

Throughout my life I've support several nonprofit organizations and causes, none has been as personal and more worthy than Veterans Ocean Adventures. As a Veteran, I've spent years carrying for those who serve, but never really took time for myself. Now 23 years later, it's me that was in need of care.

When I met the founder of Veterans Ocean Adventures, I'd been deployed during the initial Iraqi War and three tours after that. I was frayed, hardly recognizing the person I was, broken - mind and body. Before I ever went out on the water (although he'd invite me several times), we'd talked a great deal. I finally went out for a sail and it was the most calming and peaceful time that I could remember. Just remembering that calming peace brings tears to my eyes and I can never thank the Founder enough for caring to start such a venture and his ability to see the need in those he serve as well as his and his charity’s willing to help make a difference in my life.

This is one of the most worthy charities out there because it's Veterans helping Veterans. In a VA system that is problematic, this charity definitely served me as well as other Veterans by truly showing it cares, not just lip service with a catchy sound bit. This Charity is genuine! I support this charity, not because of what it has done for me, but because I know there are many other like me that will benefit from its existence. If you are looking for a worthy cause, look no further. Take a trip, look them up and see what is being accomplished and how they are helping veteran heal and feel someone out there cares. I assure you, you will not return the same, but will have a deeper appreciation of what this organization is doing to help Veteran, love ones and family members. This organization is about healing, understanding and lessening the pain of loss. This is THE charity to support.

9 Carla30

Volunteer

Rating: 5

VOA has been a great influence on me since i left the military. VOA has given me the opportunity to continue to stay connected with my community and the veteran community of South Florida, while at the same time, allows me the opportunity to continue to serve back to the community. VOA was also a great part of me integrating into civilian life, I don't know where I would be without them!
Providing an opportunity for veterans to experience healing through the power of water is one of the most effective and best programs I have come across.

8

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a career service member (over 21 yrs and still going). This is **the best** veteran's support organization I have seen, bar none. Small, professional, completely dedicated, and focused on one mission- helping veterans in need. Additionally, being a retired vet himself, Branson is completely in sync with veterans and offers a personal atmosphere to every adventure. He's a trained professional in each medium, so totally safe as well. Thank you Veteran's Ocean Adventures!

11

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I recently met Branson Rector the founder of this non profit and I was very imipressed with his total dedication and caring for the veterans that he has wrapped his arms around. I recently began volunteering and was very touched at the first event I went to, The Gold Star Mother's Sunset Cruise and Luncheon. Branson and his volunteers prepared and dedicated a special afternoon for these Mothers who have lost a child in combat in the US Military. I could see the sadness and stress on the faces on the Mothers as they arrived, but by the time the evening had ended with the lovely sunset cruise on Biscayne Bay, I could see this stress wash away and hear so many of them comment how "Being out on the water had relaxed and given them one of the first peaceful afternoons for a long time." This is just one of the events that Voa sponsors.

My wish for the next year for VOA is for more volunteers and also more donations for VOA. I know ALL of these funds go directly toward the very special events planned by VOA to heal these Veterans with the power of water. From many of the Veterans own comments above, I can see that Branson's long hours of planning and executing and teaching all of these Scuba, sailing and other adventures are touching and changing the lives of our Veterans and their families. Great work Branson and all of your volunteers! I hope everyone's New Years Resolutions will be to touch one of these Veterans through this non profit.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I can't say enough good things about this organization (and I've seen quite a few nonprofits at work). It helps veterans with physical and mental disabilities by exposing them to the ocean and "the healing power of water." In other words, it teaches veterans to sail, scuba dive, kayak and paddle board.
It's entirely volunteer-run, and many of its volunteers are vets themselves, so they understand the unique issues veterans face. All of the activities are free to vets. And, most importantly, the people who are involved with VOA--both volunteers and participants--really form a community. (I don't think "family" is too strong of a word here.) The caring is very, very real. And it starts at the top, with the group's founder, Branson Rector, and spreads to everyone.

10

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I work for the Department of the Army, taking care of the families of Fallen Heroes or Gold Star Families. These are the families who are mourning the loss of a Hero in the line of duty. Veterans Oceans Adventures have provided free "sunset sails" several times to conmemorate Gold Star Mothers Day every year. On the last Sunday of September each year, VOA has provided a lunch at a sailing club around Miami, and then the opportunity for the mothers to go out on a sunset sail that many describe as a way to find peace.

One of the mothers who was shellshocked after the loss of her son in Afghanistan, finally broked free during the sailing trip. Now, not only does she smile but, she can talk of her loss and she is willing to take part in other activites. I will continue to rely upon VOA for this special annual event and have become a donor, myself! Low key, specially reflective, only interested in the Survivors needs - VOA simply makes it happen.
Maddie Husta GS-11/ Survivor Outreach Services Coordinator/ 305-437-2178

9

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a veteran of the United States Army who served for 8 years and completed 3 tours of duty in Iraq. VETERANS OCEAN ADVENTURES INC helped better than any other medication. The ocean calms me down, helps me sleep and give me a peaceful thought when meditating. The organization helped me to connect with other veterans with similar problems which gave me a sense of "I am not alone".

It works!

10 ScubaRon

Client Served

Rating: 5

I met Branson at Health South Hospital in Sunrise shortly after having a spinal cord injury. I was feeling like my life was over and my future was going to consist of laying in bed everyday. He came to a spinal cord injury support group meeting one night and told me if you willing when can get you scuba diving. I laughed because I didn't have much use of my arms or legs, he quickly replied you can do it and we can help. I thought about it for a couple of days and thought it can't get much worse for me so I called. He arranged for me to attend a discover scuba class where I was met by Branson and a wonderful group of trained buddy divers. After a few instructions and help of the buddy divers I was carefully put into a wetsuit and given lessons on using the equipment. They then carefully lower me into the water and attached all the equipment. The minute I hit the water and the weight was taken of my spine I felt relief . They pushed me through the water and my mind opened to a whole new way of having peace. Since that day I have found a love for the water and how it puts me at peace and heals my pain and mind. Branson continues to invite me for scuba trips and I have yet to say no. Branson and his group of buddy divers allowed for me to bond with my son through scuba diving, something I thought I could never do with my injury. This is truly a great programs that helps heal, but I have forged a group of new friends, some in worse shape then me but full of smiles every time we dive.

10 Steve132

Volunteer

Rating: 5

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.

12

Client Served

Rating: 5

Where do I start. So much to say and not enough space provided. I have been down and out for so long that i thought i would never get back on my feet. injuried in the military and pretty much left out to dry by the VA back in Boise, ID has not been kind on my recovery. Moving back to Florida and finding out about VOA is one of the best moves i have made. VOA has showed me another side to life and has put me with people with similar disibilities has helped me grow. No one understand better what we are going through other than those that have been there before. I am a much better person now and have my life back on track since i have been involved with VOA. Its always hard to admit what is wrong but it is always nice to know that your not alone and with VOA you are not alone.

10

General Member of the Public

Rating: 4

This organization has helped me in my own recovery journey. I suffer from PTSD and being able to go diving with a Buddy Diver, allows me to reach therapeutic goals that reduce anxiety. It allows me to around like minded people who understand and also enjoy diving and other adventures. Getting to know other people and allowing myself to enjoy the wonderful world under the water.

11 Frank26

Client Served

Rating: 5

V.O.A has done a lot to help local vets in integrating back into their normal lives again. They have a multitude of activities which are 100% free to all military warriors and there families from sailing to scuba diving and rock climbing and kayaking and fishing there are plenty of things to do and it helps you meet local vets and make new friends and developed your team skills along with helping you cope with ptsd and TBI with proper help from the rec therapist. I have benefited greatly and have been able to be more open about everything with these programs. I also suffer from multiple disabilities including PTSD AND TBI along with 7 other. Problems. Fins them on Facebook and check out how they can help you get out of the house and make integration easy again .