This was the fourth annual Kayak with a Vet event held by St Louis Elks Lodge #9, in cooperation with Team River Runner – STL providing a one-day veterans community event to focus on veteran’s health issues. The event, which is open to the public, will provide veterans the opportunity to Kayak alongside Team River Runner – STL. This event exposes veterans to the healing powers gained from kayaking Team River Runner Adaptive Rowing Program offered through the Jefferson Barracks VA St. Louis Healthcare System. The event hosted 30 veteran’s organizations and ELKS National Programs (National Veteran Leather, Drug Awareness, Americanism Essay Contest, and the MEA Ben Trust Dental Unit) allowing veterans, their families and the public to interact and learn about the resources available in the community. (See the photo for all the organizations who participated.) The purpose of the organizations being in attendance was to help focus on veteran’s physical and mental health and those challenges after active duty, job/placement, preventing homelessness, value of support dogs and other organizations focused on veterans. The event is also to education the public concerning the resources in the area to help greater community awareness of the challenges veterans and their families face while veterans are on active duty and the challenges when transitioning to civilian life. The local First Responders from the Maryland Heights police and Pattonville fire departments were there to support the veterans.

What local need was met?

Kayak with a Vet is aimed at helping veterans, their families and the community focus on veterans’ health and fitness as well as education about the resources available to them in the area. When talking about veteran’s health it is not only physical health, but also mental help and support for them and their families. Six String Heroes was present to show how music helps veterans and four Support Dog groups were present to help explain how a support dog can aid veterans and the required training the dog must go through to become a support dog. Fisher House provided mental health information, while The Veteran Community Project and The St Patrick Center information on housing available to veterans. The education provided by the 30 participating organizations demonstrates the overall ongoing assistance our veteran’s & active-duty personnel, and the resources & support that are available to them and their families.

Please explain how Elks were involved

The St. Louis Elks Lodge #9 Veterans Service Committee spearheaded all aspects of the event from promoting the event (contacting news agencies & social media promotions) contacting the 30 attending veteran’s organization to gain their participation and aid in promoting the event, set up of the event location, preparing the food provided, helping the kayaks and participants used at the event to clean up. The Membership was asked to help promote the event via flyers as well as attend the event to provide assistance where needed.

What were the project’s successes?

The event had increased participation from Lodge members and from the public. Everyone in attendance had the opportunity to learn more about the veteran’s resources available and to network with these organizations which help veterans and their families. Many in attendance were not even aware of some of the resources available to veterans and their families during active duty and the return to civilian life. The organizations appreciated the ability to be in one location to help spread their mission in helping veterans. The education of getting into a kayak and learning the physical and mental benefits of the activity was invaluable to those in attendance. One major success is demonstrating how the Elks organization supports veterans and their families.

How did the Lodge react to the project? What feedback did you receive from Lodge members and the community?

Lodge support was very evident by the increased member participation. The Veteran’s Committee received a $250 and $100 donation prior to the event to help offset any expenses outside of what the Freedom Grant was to provide for the event. The news and radio coverage before and during the event assured our membership how important this event is for our Veteran community. The event is held at a St Louis County park where there were many people were running, biking, and partaking in various water activities. As soon as the fire department ran their sirens and the Pledge of Allegiance was being said, everyone in the area stopped what they were doing and participated in the Pledge and the singing of the National Anthem. Once the opening ceremony portion of the event concluded, we focused attention on the first Veteran partaking in a solo experience with Team River Runner STL President Thomas Cooke. Soon after the crowd was able to sign up for their participation of the kayaking and connect with the attending organizations. There appears to be a strong interest by the attending organizations to participate again at the 2024 Kayak with a Vet 5 event, which tells us that the 2023 event was very well received by them and the those who attended the event.

Final Report submitted by Doug McWard on Oct 25, 2023 4:20 PM.


Freedom Grant activity. Due to the Covid restrictions in St. Louis County when the grant application was due, St. Louis Lodge #9 decided to make a cash donation to Mission 22 too help support veterans with PTSD. The veterans committee felt that having seen the effects of PTSD on veterans, this was a good way to help an organization continue their work. An organization such as Mission 22 has the network of resources which an individual lodge does not have. Mission 22’s program is designed to help heal veterans, but also helps education communities on the struggles these veterans are facing when dealing with PTSD.

What local need was met? Having experienced veterans with PTSD this grant will help veterans and help educate our community in the struggles these veterans and their families and friends are facing. It is important for our veterans committee to help educate our members and our community on the needs of veterans on an ongoing basis.

How were Elks involved. This was a monetary donation to Mission 22. Our veterans committee was involved in selecting the veterans organization to support and to present to the grants committee their reasons for selecting this charity.

What were the project’s successes? This helps Mission 22 continue their work and helps educate our lodge and community on veterans suffering from PTSD.

How did the Lodge react to the project? What feedback did you receive from Lodge members and the community? The Lodge was grateful for the support of ENF to help them support veterans.

Final Report submitted by Jane Schnettler May 17, 2021 2:50 PM.