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

Kevin Fowler

Team River Runner
Boise

Kevin Fowler has been an active member of the Boise Chapter Team River Runner organization since March of 2018. A combat engineer army veteran, Kevin pursued a mechanical and structural design career with a secondary in website development. Kevin then retired due to medical challenges and now spends time enjoying the outdoors and creating new adventures. A certified Rescue Diver with a strong attraction to water, kayaking is a perfect fit for Kevin and will be a very memorable adventure to add to his resume.

Kevin had found TRR from an unexpected invitation by a peer support specialist from the Boise VA. The young man visited Kevin and Invited him to a scheduled pool session that teaches kayaking. This Invite changed Kevin’s life. He quickly became involved with TRR and kayaking. Becoming a competent class 2 kayaker and attending clinics and events throughout 2018, he continues to support TRR. Kevin found that his involvement with TRR lead to many positive changes, including a healthier lifestyle, a feeling of trust and a purpose larger than himself that he can be part of.

Passionate about kayaking and the team environment, Kevin has committed his time to continue in assisting in the progression of Team River Runner and adaptive sports as a whole. Kevin’s main goal his to be successful as a valuable member of Team River Runner and become an experienced kayaker so as to continue further support in an adaptive paddling environment on our Rivers.

“It all started by me just SHOWING UP”

Kevin Fowler

Kevin’s involvement with Team River Runner lead to this OJT opportunity. Having goals towards adaptive needs paddling, it was a perfect opportunity for Kevin to get additional training and experience he needed to further his goals. The motivation and support that TRR has given and continues to give Kevin Instills a personal and an immense appreciation for Team River Runner and the adaptive padding opportunity offered to our veterans. This OJT position will give Kevin expanded knowledge and understanding that can be passed on to other veterans in need of healing on Idaho rivers. Receiving so much from the VA, Kevin’s desire to give back to TRR  has become a lifestyle change that he seriously appreciates.

 

“and I get to kayak, how cool is that?”

Kevin Fowler

Josh George

Team River Runner
Colorado Springs

Hello, My name is Josh George. I am 38 years old and have been kayaking since 2014. I served in the Marine Corp for 4 years and in the Army for 11 years. I am from Montana. I love to hunt, fish and anything that has to do with the mountain and the great outdoors.  I learned how to kayak in Wausau WI with the TRR. They were having a event there and I was asked to help carry boats or rescue boat when the veterans would swim. The event had way to many volunteers, so they took me and the 4 other recruiters and put us in boats and I was hooked from that point on. My goal after I graduate from college with my BSN, (Bachelors in Nursing) is to move back to Montana and open a TRR chapter.

Christina

Team River Runner
Minneapolis

Hi! I’m Christina Fletcher, Navy vet, (*cough) 44 year old mom of 4, favorite daughter, best sister, great friend, the most wonderful girlfriend, caring volunteer, spreader of sunshine, and maker of smiles.
I joined the Navy in 1992 after high school. I had planned on serving my 20 years but my plans changed after my incident and I’ve become the person you see and I love today. My eldest son has been kayaking
for several years and given my challenges I had never joined him until I found out about TRR….
In 2015, I started kayaking with TRR Boise on Quinn’s pond. I was nervous but I DID IT! The next TRR event I brought my son and I ended up having some issues, I was incredibly embarrassed but was set at ease and brought into the family of caring, just as broken, and crazy individuals that make up TRR Boise.
The rest is history, I love Team River Runner and what they do for disabled veterans and their families.
I love the outdoors. I love nature and tent camp 3 seasons of the year. Don’t get me started on fishing and I really enjoy a good day at the range. Kayaking is a different animal all on its own, there is nothing like the peace of being outside, in nature, on the water. I find a peace I can’t explain, my mind is focused
on the moment not on the million other things that seem to always invade my mind, true peace with great people who love me just the way I am.
I am excited to have been chosen as an OJT for Boise and am looking forward to learning all I can about running our TRR chapter and other skills so I can continue my passion in helping other handicap-able veterans.
~IdahoSunshine

Naomi Houdek

Team River Runner
Minneapolis

Hello!  My name is Naomi, and I live in Minneapolis, MN.  I make it through our winters by looking forward to getting outside in the spring and summer!  I was medically discharged after eight years in the Army NG, then went back to school to get a degree in Marketing.  I work at the VBA where I get to help Veterans and their loved ones.  I started with Team River Runner in 2016 after going through the pain clinic at the VA.  On my road to recovery, I was looking to try new things, meet new people, and push myself.  This was definitely accomplished with TRR!  I am passionate about helping Veterans, and am very thankful to get to do so with TRR!

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.

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. 

 

 

Frank Hackney

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Colorado Springs

Started TRR as Chapter Coordinator 2007
Army National Guard 5 years
Active duty Army 10 years
Army Reserve 20 years
DA civ 19 years
MOS 19 D Cavalry Scout
92 F Petroleum Supply Specialist
Currently working as a DAC at Ft Carson CO.
Slotted as an Observer/Coach/Trainer for my Army Reserve Unit
Live in Colorado Springs. CO
Originally from Knoxville TN

George Jensen

Chapter Coordinator
Team River Runner
Minneapolis

Marine Vietnam Vet (double tour started during Tet) after HS. College at U of Mn – degree in Psych.  Worklife mainly as a consultant dealing with Fortune 200 Co.s. Retired now.  Started Whitewater in mid 70’s when we had to build our own boats. Have paddled all over the Rockies, down Southeast, out East and in Canada and Italy. TRR career began ~ 3 years ago as Chapter Coord in Mpls

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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