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Disabled vets get into a spirited game of kayak football with Sen. Rob Portman

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Disabled vets get into a spirited game of kayak football with Sen. Rob Portman

Not everything in Cleveland this week is about the GOP convention. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) left the Q and raced kayaks with wounded veterans in support of a charity, Team River Runner.

Founded in 2004, the charity helps veterans hit the water in an effort to build camaraderie and confidence. 

They've helped a lot of veterans feel a sense of normalcy.
Cory Anderson

Executive Director Joe Mornini's goal is to help vets in need. "You know veterans who are hurting? They need to come and see us. It's amazing what we are able to do."

And it's working. Army veteran Ryan Major tells Circa that "it's been tremendous in my recovery."

It's a sentiment fellow veteran and chairman of the North East Ohio chapter, Cory Anderson, agrees with. "They've helped a lot of veterans feel a sense of normalcy."

Some members of Team River Runner have lost legs, some are blind, some cannot walk. Major lost both of his legs after an IED attack, Anderson is wheelchair bound.

Many members of the group have custom boats to allow for their disabilities. "What Team River Runner has done is built these cylinder holes so I put my liner on to protect my skin and I put them inside of those holes," Major said. "And it gives me better balance, as if I had both my legs inside the boat."

Anderson has stabilizers for his kayak. "There were some outriggers on there, and what that does is keeps you from tipping a little bit," he says.

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Portman, who has been involved with the kayak program from the beginning said: "Some of these guys have PTSD or traumatic brain injury, others are amputees -- [they] have all put their lives on the line for us, so they all deserve our support."

In the final race of the day, Major beat Portman by a couple of lengths. The win was sweet revenge for Major, who once fell out of his boat while Portman was guiding him.

But he has no hard feelings towards Portman and was all smiles and jokes when asked about the victory. The smiles and confidence of the vets, along with the overwhelming demand for the program, is another victory for Team River Runners.

The charity has more demand than they can accommodate.

"We've grown to 31 states, about 54 chapters -- we actually have to put a hold on new chapters," said Executive Director Joe Mornini.

The race wasn't close.


If you want to learn more about Team River Runners visit:

http://www.TeamRiverRunner.org/

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