OJT - On The Job Training

Learn more about our mentorship program that has been providing veterans in TRR chapters an opportunity to gain leadership, instruction and management experience for three years!

If you are interested in being a Mentor for a potential chapter member that you’d like to nominate for the 2019 OJT Program please contact Lance Sharp, the OJT Program Administrator, for additional details and to answer any remaining questions you may have about the program. He’s eager to share this amazing opportunity with you. Contact information for Lance is at the bottom of the page!

What is the OJT Program?

The OJT program is for wounded or disabled veterans participating in Team River Runner and is an opportunity for professional growth and skill building in many areas. The OJT veteran will be working 10 hours each week for 30 weeks on regular Team River Runner activities. These activities will include outreach, program delivery and instruction, as well as follow up data recording for each paddling session. The idea behind the program is to build chapter leadership from within the TRR. We have been successful with this as some of our former OJT participants have started their own chapters. Additionally, the OJT veteran will develop leadership skills that will be applicable to other careers such as volunteer, equipment management and adaptive sports instruction. Each OJT veteran will have one or more mentors to provide advice and support as needed.
The OJT program is funded by Disabled Sports USA through an Adaptive Sports Grant from the Department of Veterans Administration.

2019 OJT Participants

Bridgette Ruppenthal

Team River Runner
Shepherd

We’ll start with my usual, “I’m Gette!” I am honored to have served in the USAF for just over 11 years, 7
of which were after a severe Traumatic Brain Injury. Unfortunately, continued service in the military
became impossible. Right after my injury and then again after my service in the USAF ended, I struggled
to find a new identity grounded in the core values the USAF taught me. My ability to serve seemed to be
hindered by this injury. Changing my perspective from a DISabled veteran to an ENabled veteran,
combining my military service and my TBI experiences, I believe nursing was the best avenue for me to
inspire others (especially veterans) to transform their outlook regarding obstacles and barriers. Soon after
after enrolling at Shepherd University, I sought out veteran organizations on campus and until graduation
I served as executive leadership for the Shepherd University Student Veterans Organization and became a
volunteer with TRR. My personal struggle and my professional training give me the drive to affect
change in how we connect. Connections are a powerful base to impact change for some of our most
vulnerable populations. I am truly blessed to be involved with Team River Runner and have personally
gained strength and stability. Gifts I do not take for granted and gifts I want to share with other
veterans.

My chapter coordinator has encouraged me to apply for events and programs she believes will help me
continue to serve since I’ve been a volunteer with TRR-Shepherd University. Returning from the
Women’s Leadership Trip on the San Juan River last summer, TRR’s OJT program seems like the next
logical step to help me grow as a leader. I am able to hone my skills for communication and leadership
while increasing my physical and mental strength and have tons of fun! It just makes sense. I am so
lucky to have been chosen.

Antoinette Toscano

Team River Runner
Fort Collins

Antoinette Toscano is a Gulf War era, 11-year veteran of the U.S. Army. She works as a freelance ghostwriter and a columnist at Culturs Magazine. She is a member of the Fort Collins chapter where she is the marketing and recruiting coordinator for the chapter. Antoinette first saw a poster advertising TRR at the Durham, North Carolina VAMC and decided to join. She began paddling with TRR-Raleigh in 2013. She immediately joined the TRR-Fort Collins chapter when she moved to Colorado in 2018. 
 
 

I wanted to be a part of the TRR OJT program to give back to the organization that helped me to recover from a broken back and mild TBI as a result of my military service. I found that being out in nature, learning new things, and moving my body in ways that I don’t use it in my everyday life helped with cognitive challenges and arthritis. I want to help ensure that other veterans have an opportunity to heal and enjoy life on the water. I can learn how to manage and grow a recreational therapy chapter and help other veterans through the OJT program and that makes me feel like a valued member of my community

David Taylor

Team River Runner
Green Bay

Joshuan George

Team River Runner
Colorado Springs

Kevin Fowler

Team River Runner
Boise

Michael Smerchek

Team River Runner
Milwaukee

2019 OJT Mentors

Tracy Seffers

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Shepherd

In 2011, as a regional university registrar newly charged with certifying veterans for their educational benefits, I was looking for ways to connect with our student veteran population.  I was already a kayaker, running a summer after-work program for casual recreational kayaking for staff and faculty for several years.  I literally googled “veterans kayaking” and found Team River Runner.  I looked for a chapter in West Virginia – none existed at the time – so I reached out by email to offer my help if someone was already looking to start a WV chapter.  I got a call from Dave Robey on Thanksgiving Day 2011 – I’m in my jammies stirring my gravy! – and we talked for a long time about TRR.  The longer we talked the more it became clear that 1) no one else in West Virginia was talking about starting a chapter – except me; and that 2) Shepherd was possibly the perfect host for a TRR chapter:  a university that valued both its student-veterans and its mission of service to the community, a location bounded by two national and historic rivers, an amazing local paddling community, and a VA Medical Center close by to partner with.

 

So we did it.  It took a year and half, but we did it.  April 2013 we launched, and we have not stopped making the miracle happen since. 

 

I tell people: I love my job as registrar, I’ve been doing it for 30+ years, and I surely hope I’m good at it – but the work I do with Team River Runner is the best work I’ve ever done, or ever will do.  For all of us who volunteer with Team River Runner, this is, very simply, the work of our hearts.

As chapter coordinator, I am  always scanning the environment for opportunities to put in front of our veterans and volunteers to expand their skill sets, to development them as paddlers and professionals, in ways that return those skills in service to the chapter.  The opportunity for OJT came up this year at a time that our candidate, Gette, was also looking for additional ways to serve the chapter.  The rest, as they say, is history.  We are excited about the ways she can help us move the chapter forward this year, including developing a new outreach to blind/vision-impaired veterans and civilians in our community!

Mark McWilliams

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Fort Collins

Mark McWilliams is a Civil Engineer Corps Navy Veteran living in Fort Collins, CO.  Mark is a Civil Engineer working for the USDA Agricultural Research Service.  Mark has been kayaking for 25+ years and enjoys rafting with his family.  TRR has been a wonderful opportunity to connect with local veterans and give back to a community (both veteran and kayaking) that is near and dear to his heart.  Mark is a husband and father of two very rambunctious boys.

Ken Braband

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Green Bay

Ken Braband is an ACA-certified L4 whitewater kayak and L4 coastal sea kayak instructor. He became involved with Team River Runner when he helped form the Milwaukee chapter in 2011 and the Green Bay chapter in 2015. He now serves as TRR’s North Central region coordinator.  

The OJT program is a great way to encourage and compensate TRR’s most active veterans while strengthening our chapter’s ability to serve the community.

Frank Hackney

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Colorado Springs

Bob Tracy

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Boise

Shortly after retirement 5 years ago, was considering what I could do to be of service to others. I had a chance encounter with Dave Robey on the river in Idaho, we got to talking, and he recruited me to start the Boise TRR chapter. It’s given me a great way to share something I love (whitewater boating) with those who have served and sacrificed.  

I have lived in the Boise area and have enjoyed kayaking here for over 25 years. (Photo is of me boating in Chile this year, where I also enjoy going to kayak when possible). I am married with two grown sons. While they are not currently active boaters we have enjoyed kayaking and or rafting over the years.

I’m not a veteran myself, but am so happy to be able to serve those who have served and sacrificed for us!

I heard about the OJT program first through National, and this year we have our fourth participant in the program. It is a great way to get folks more involved and engaged and able to assume leadership activities in the chapter. 

 

 

LT Tomsevics

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Milwaukee

Lance Sharp
OJT Program Coordinator

Contact

E-mail

fredericksburgva@teamriverrunner.org

Phone

229.507.8787

Jeff Allen
Former OJT Participant

“The OJT program allowed me to get more experience working with veterans who have injuries and it has made my life a lot better because I am not just stuck in the house. I really enjoyed it and I’m pretty much hooked.”

Dave Robey
TRR Program Director

“These warfighters are our force multipliers, each of them turns around and helps other veterans. It’s a part of the ongoing healing process; they are healing and the veterans they help are also healing.”

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