St. John to Welcome Wounded Warriors for Eighth Time

Photo by Franklin Tulloch

Business and community leaders are getting ready to welcome wounded warriors to St. John for a weekend of fun and fundraising. Sunday marks the eighth year Chaotic Kayak has come to St. John.

Among those awaiting the arrival of organizers from Team Riverrunner: the former head of Veteran’s Affairs; a charter boat operator and military vet; the head of the St. John Community Foundation and operators of a seaside bistro.

As they have in past years, those civic leaders and business owners say they’re ready to help the travelers settle in, get around the island, and connect via social media.

Chaotic Kayak is best described as a mad hatter’s tea party of wounded warriors, organized into racing teams. The goal is to score more points than other teams before crossing the finish line as organizers add quirky conditions to add more fun.

About 15 teams are scheduled to take to the waters of Cruz Bay in kayak racing heats throughout the day.

One of the supporters, Tom Larsen, said he is also looking forward to seeing locals join the fun. Larsen said the level of support for Chaotic Kayak has not recovered from the changes brought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria two years ago.

“It’s a good time to have the island come together and had a good time, not just for the vets but for everybody,” Larsen said.

Since the event first arrived Larsen says he’s worked behind the scenes, hosting the event’s social media page and encouraging St. John businesses to support the wounded warrior cause.

“The first year we weren’t sure anybody would show up and then businesses kinda caught on,” Larsen said.

When Team Riverrunner leaders arrive on island on Friday, Larsen said he will take a back seat and let them run the show. This year’s events should have smoother logistics, since it’s being staged in Cruz Bay.

Former Veteran’s Administration Director Harry Daniel said he is waiting to greet those arriving on Friday. A Vietnam vet himself, Daniel has shown up to lend his support to Team Riverrunner as often as he can.

“We just want to assist with whatever we could. The rest of the guys are coming in (Friday). We’re trying to get transportation together for them,” Daniel said.

St. John Community Foundation Director Celia Kalousek takes the transportation role personally. For several Chaotic Kayaks in the past she has been behind the wheel of the foundation’s Dial-A-Ride bus, making sure disabled vets reach their destination.

And, she said, if needed, she will drive the bus again.

According to information appearing on their Facebook page, Team River Runner (TRR) was founded at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2004 by Washington, D.C. area kayak enthusiast Joe Mornini.

Since 2007 Morini has hosted wounded warrior kayak vacations to St. John.