“Remember why we are doing this – it’s for the warriors.”
Shawn Waggoner, the South Florida Heroes on the Water (HOW) chapter coordinator has first-hand experience with the ups and downs of building a chapter. The South Florida chapter is not yet a year old, and still they have managed to create some pretty amazing events while keeping the momentum going. So what is their secret?
“We remember why we are here, which is for the warriors. It’s not about titles or the job we do. It’s to help and potentially save lives by putting on a good event that has a relaxed, stress-free environment. “
Keeping Priorities Straight
Shawn and the rest of the team stay focused on service to the warriors so they can continue to enhance events and grow the chapter. But that is not always an easy task with a team of volunteers with very diverse personalities. One of the ways they continue to be successful is to recognize the gifts each person brings to the table.
“We all want to serve the warriors, so we make a point to always work as a team. When we first started, we were in different roles. As time passed, we recognized gifts and shifted our leadership team to better utilize those gifts and talents. It takes a lot of openness and maturity to shuffle the deck like that and stay focused.“
“…because it was the first time I felt like I was home.“ Tom Welgos, Eastern Operations Coordinator, Heroes on the Water.
It is difficult to comprehend the intense emotions experienced by warriors who participate in Heroes on the Water’s therapeutic outings. HOW volunteers are drawn to participate in these programs for any number of reasons. In order to fully understand, sometimes it is necessary to hear it straight from those who are on the front line, making a difference every day.
It was May 2012 when I was trolling around in an online kayak fishing forum and I came across a posting asking for volunteers to take wounded warriors out kayak fishing. They were looking for guides and gear as this was to be their first event ever. Now I have never “guided” before, but I have been fishing for nearly 40 years and I’ve shown plenty of people how to fish. I also have an appreciation for on-the-water safety and knowledge about how to handle various situations that may arise out there. So I responded with my offer to help out.
I had no idea what to expect. I’m an extremely competitive person. I fish tournaments. I play hockey. I play poker, and I’m focused in my day job at moving up the corporate ladder. So it was no surprise that I then started trash talking in the kayak fishing forum about how my vet was going to catch the most, and the biggest, fish. To me, it was game on. My vet was going to win.
As the day got closer, I meticulously planned out our day. The group was going to launch into Raritan Bay from Port Monmouth. This is a fantastic fishery which I am very familiar with. I know a channel that runs from shore to about 3 miles out. The channel started about 3/4 of a mile east of the launch. The plan would be to follow the channel out, looking for the fish and then work our way back. It would be as much as a 7 and a half mile paddle in search of fluke.
The Ganoe family combines their love of kayak fishing with volunteering to help our nation’s active duty military personnel, veterans and their families unwind and experience peace on the water. Heroes on the Water is honored by the family’s dedicated service – Melita, husband Charlie, and son Daniel – and is proud to announce that Melita and Daniel have both been recognized nationally for their outstanding service.
On June 4, 2014 in The Great Hall at the Department of Justice, Attorney General, Eric Holder honored Melita with the Attorney General’s Volunteer Award for Community Service for her sustained volunteer role with Heroes on the Water, one of three recipients nationally.
As the coordinator for the Northeast Florida Chapter of Heroes on the Water, Melita leads a team of volunteers in providing kayak fishing outings to help warriors unwind and reconnect with themselves, their families and their community. As a founding member of the chapter in June 2012, Melita’s leadership rapidly led to a strong corps of volunteers delivering monthly outings for veterans. Every outing engages veterans and their family members in a safe, relaxing, fun experience, designed to help them heal, connect with other veterans, and learn a new sport they can enjoy for a lifetime.