Heart Drives the Mission – A Salute to Veterans

You don’t find too many owners of successful companies actually being the bus driver for their company, but that’s just what you’ll find at Rafting in the Smokies. On any given day, Handicapped bus at Rafting in the Smokiesyou’ll see owner Mark Shultz at the helm of the company’s wheelchair shuttle bus. And he’s quite proud of his position. “It’s an honor to serve these disabled veterans who’ve given so much of themselves in service to our country,” says Shultz.

Over the past few years, Rafting in the Smokies has noticed a marked increase in the number of young, wheelchair-bound guests. As Shultz explains, “one of the benefits of white water rafting is the amount of self-confidence developed from racing the rapids, and I knew we had to do everything we could to make that a positive experience for our wheelchair-bound guests.” Shultz and his daughter travelled to Michigan to find the perfect bus and drove it down to Tennessee. They’ve been happily driving that bus to the put-in at the powerhouse ever since.

Then one day, a river guide known as “Crunchy” introduced the Shultz family to the organization known as Team River Runners. Team River Runners (TRR) is a national organization established in 2004 by kayakers in the Washington, DC area to help active duty military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan who were recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The organization is growing a national network of chapters which create innovative paddling programs designed to assist with the recovery of injured veterans. Rafting in the Smokies hosted the Asheville, North Carolina chapter of TRR on the Pigeon River this past summer.

Co-owner Brenda Shultz put it’s best, “We totally support TRR’s mission of creating an environment of healthy adventure for healing active duty and veteran service members through paddle sports.”

The Shultz’s are looking forward to working the other Team River Runner chapters in both Knoxville and Johnson City to help more veterans improve their health, strength and connection with nature through white water rafting. For more information on TRR visit their website at www.TeamRiverRunner.org.