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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

8

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!

9

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.

9 Polett

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!

8 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.

10

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.

8

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.

9 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 .