We all remember how we got into paddling. The roll class our buddies talked us into attending in college, the family member who taught us to pilot a canoe as a child, or the adventurous friend who took us rafting for the first time and sparked an interest that would change our lives.

Regardless of where we got our start, we know how transformative paddling can be once we’re hooked. That’s why we’d like to take a moment to salute six inspirational nonprofits that are working to introduce kayaking to people who might not otherwise have a chance to get out on the water.

Veterans’ Paddling Nonprofits

Founded in 2004, Team River Runner is an organization that operates in 45 locations across the country, helping wounded and disabled veterans and their families get on the water. Specializing in adaptive paddling and emotional support, Team River Runner relies on a network of volunteers to help veterans experience the life-changing power of kayaking. Donations allow Team River Runner to cover all the costs of paddling, from gear to transportation and food. To donate time or money, visit their website.

Team River Runner empowers Military Vets through kayaking

Team River Runner empowers Military Vets through kayaking

Heroes on the Water is a country-wide organization with chapters in dozens of states that seeks to help veterans participate in kayak fishing. Heroes on the Water’s works to introduce new skills to veterans while providing space to decompress emotionally. According to their website, “Our program is unique in that it is a long-term activity, not a one-time event. We believe that the effectiveness of the program is a direct result of engaging the wounded military personnel for the long-term.” Find ways to help on their website.

Finding Health and Wellness through Paddling

First Descents focuses on helping young adult cancer survivors (ages 18-39) push their limits and find empowerment. Through kayaking, surfing and climbing, survivors participate in an authentic outdoor experience that helps rebuild confidence that was lost to cancer. First Descents relies on financial and time donations to achieve their goals including their tuition-free programs. To help, visit their website.

Based in South Carolina, Adaptive Expeditions aims to help individuals with physical and mental disabilities experience outdoor adventures. Offering adaptive yoga, cycling and paddle sports, Adaptive Expeditions offers day trips into South Carolina cypress swamps and rivers. To learn more, check out their website

The Nantahala Racing Club introduces Western North Carolina kids to kayaking

The Nantahala Racing Club introduces Western North Carolina kids to kayaking

Nonprofits that Empower Kids with Paddling

In Bryson City, North Carolina, the Nantahala Racing Club has been working for years to get local kids into kayaks. Volunteer driven, the Nantahala Racing Club offers programs helping kids learn everything from paddling basics to slalom racing. Learn more on their website.

Out of California, Kayaks 4 Kidz is a nonprofit that offers half-day camps in the summer which introduce local kids to ocean kayaking. Since 2002, the organization has been helping kids learn the importance and empowerment of exercise through adventures on the water. Find out more on their website.

The next time you’re wondering what to do with the weekend, consider giving back by helping out with a local nonprofit and introducing someone to the life-changing power of paddling.

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