Florida Forest Service hosts disabled veterans for annual kayak adventure

SEBASTIAN — Earlier this month, the Florida Forest Service – Okeechobee District hosted its annual Operation Outdoor Freedom kayak weekend getaway for four heroes and their families on a secluded barrier island at the Sebastian Inlet State Park. Operation Outdoor Freedom provides recreational opportunities for Florida’s service-connected disabled veterans at no cost.

“The kayaking weekend was tailored to veterans with all forms of disabilities and every element was geared to make this adventure enjoyable for the participants to help foster camaraderie and reconnect veterans to the outdoors,” explained Senior Forest Ranger Brian Torres, Florida Forest Service. “There’s a calming affect while you’re floating on the Indian River Lagoon, and it’s only broken by splashing mullet and snook, gulls calling from above, and the smell of the warm, salty sea air.”

Beaching their kayaks on the Spoil Islands, the veterans and their families enjoyed fishing, camping, island exploration and sunbathing on the sandbar. At night, campfires glowed and marshmallows roasted, while veterans shared experiences at a primitive campsite on the lagoon.

Donations and sponsors provided food, kayaks, fishing poles and camping equipment.

“We are grateful for the donations to host this event,” says Torres “this was a healing experience that creates lasting memories and new friendships.”

For information on how you can donate to this worthy cause, please go to www.operationoutdoorfreedom.com.

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests, provides management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests, while protecting homes, forestland, and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

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