rudy and mariaRudy and María Castañeda knew they wanted to help veterans, so they began their journey to create and develop a Heroes on the Water chapter in the Rio Grande Valley. They held their first event in May, and since that time have taken over 100 warriors and families out on the water. They have become an integral part of the community, speaking to various organizations and colleges. More importantly, they are dedicated to supporting the large community of veterans and active-duty military service folks in the area. Why?

“As a Veteran I go to the VA and I have seen other Veterans who are suffering from combat, so I knew there were a lot of people we could serve,” said Rudy. “I told the wife there are so many people in the area who would love to go kayak fishing, but cannot afford their own kayak, so let’s start a Heroes on the Water chapter.”

Having already held eight events is no small feat, particularly for a newer chapter. Rudy says the key is the leadership team.

“We all pitch in and we have a great team. I just went out and asked people to help. When they showed up for the first meeting, I simply asked them what they liked to do, and that’s how we decided who would have each position,” said Rudy. “Tracy likes finance, so he became the treasurer. Johnny likes to coordinate, so he took over events. It just works.”

Using technology to help them stay in touch also helps, so they can continually communicate and coordinate all their fundraising and kayak fishing events. Yet that is not what really makes this chapter work.

It’s a Heart for Family

“We have people tell us we are their family now,” said Maria. “They don’t have anyone else to talk to, and we are very blessed they are willing to reach out to us.”

“Whatever I’m doing, I drop it to pay attention to them, because it’s important to them. You need to encourage and lift them up so they continue on their daily walk and continue to adjust being out of the service,” said Maria. “I need to do it for these men and women, especially the women. It’s good we run this chapter as a couple, so everyone feels comfortable reaching out to us.”

Rudy and Maria feel blessed that the chapter is doing so well. We recognize it’s the passion they and the leadership team have to serve our nation’s warriors that make such a difference. They feel that #HOWNation is part of their family now.

“What does family do? You stop what you are doing so you can help another family member,” said Maria. “That’s what we do.”

You can help folks like Rudy and Maria serve those who have served us so valiantly. Donate to help us serve more warriors, and create more families.

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