Sandy Thomas – TRR Boise

I’m not a social butterfly, so going to the pool the first time was a huge effort. I had so much fun!  After a winter of practicing moves and techniques in the pool, Team River Runner sent a fellow veteran, Michele Williams, and me to an all-women’s five day leadership clinic on the San Juan River in Utah. That helped me step up to the plate and interact with others in a comfortable atmosphere, learn new techniques, and I made friends with like minded women.

It was when I got back home and ventured out for the first time on one of our mountain rivers with our local TRR chapter that I had my “ah ha” moment. The sun sparkling on the water, blue sky, mountain air and me in the middle of it, just how I’d always imagined. I knew I was meant to be there. Knowing that I have the most awesome experienced safety crew surrounding me gives me the security to kayak on moving water and through rapids. Yes, the louder the rapids roar, the higher the anxiety, but I stretch my limits and go for it.

Besides the obvious of being one with the water, one with nature, TRR gives me purpose. It gives me confidence and drive, and allows me to be with people who understand where I’m coming from. They say I’m always smiling on the water. I can’t help myself. So are they! I finished last season with another veteran, Stephen Pratt, traveling to St. John USVI for a week long leadership clinic staying on Cinnamon Bay and sea kayaking and snorkeling in a different bay every day. It was a dream. Again, I learned a lot and got to know other TRR members. Since that trip last fall, I have been an ambassador for TRR and am in their 30 week OJT leadership program, allowing me to do more of the administrative side, fundraising events, trip planning, etc. I’m finding the old me peeking out from behind the curtain and engaging in life again. So good.

Vanessa Jones

Committe Co-Chair

Vanessa A. Jones is a dynamic force dedicated to fostering
inclusivity, encouraging discussion, and promoting a culture of
belonging in the outdoor sports community. Hailing from
Washington, DC, she brings a wealth of diverse experiences and
perspectives to her endeavors.
As a US Army veteran and ordained Chaplain with a focus on
seniors and caretakers, Vanessa is deeply committed to serving
others. Her work as a patient-caretaker advocate reflects her
passion for supporting vulnerable populations and ensuring their
voices are heard.
Currently, Vanessa is employed by a resettlement agency, where
she confronts challenges head-on with resilience and
compassion. As a single, Black woman veteran, she embraces
the unique hurdles she faces, viewing them as opportunities for
growth and empowerment.
In her downtime, she wears many hats, including that of a
missionary, spreading hope and positivity wherever she goes.
Weekends are spent paddling, immersing herself in West African
dance and finding solace and joy in nature’s embrace.
Vanessa is committed to equitable principles, ensuring that
everyone’s opinions are valued and heard. Through her
unwavering dedication and inclusive leadership, Vanessa is
paving the way for a more equitable and diverse outdoor sports