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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

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.

12

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.

10

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.

9

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.

8 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.

7 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.

7

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!

9

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.

9

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.

9

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