- Associated Press - Sunday, July 20, 2014

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - A nonprofit group gave wounded veterans a chance to trade their wheelchairs for specially outfitted kayaks in Wausau.

About a dozen veterans participated in the outing at Wausau Whitewater Park on Saturday, the Daily Herald Media reported (http://wdhne.ws/1wNSQN0 ).

The event was organized by Team River Runner, which was founded 10 years ago in Washington, D.C., and now has chapters across the country. Ken Braband, who helps run the group’s Milwaukee chapter, said some veterans get a real thrill out of riding whitewater rapids and feeling the rushing water under their boat.

“For someone that may not be able to walk without a walker or even walk at all, being on a boat and being on the water is a great equalizer,” he said. “Everybody is kind of on the same level.”

Terrence Green, 55, from Bay View, spent 23 years in the Army. He suffered a severe neck injury in a 2003 traffic accident that left him paralyzed for more than two years. He regained the ability walk with a cane or walker, but still has no feeling from his stomach to his legs or on his left side.

“I lost a ton of weight from kayaking and exercising, and it got me motivated to lose more weight,” Green said. He said kayaking relaxes him, helping him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

That’s the whole point, said Dave Stachovak, 67, an able-bodied veteran from Wausau who volunteered at the event.

“It gives them an opportunity to do things that they normally couldn’t do,” Stachovak said.

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Information from: Wausau Daily Herald Media, http://www.wausaudailyherald.com

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