I was talking to my friend Captain Rick a few weeks ago, and he tells me about a group of college students from FAU that he took out diving. They went out on the reefs to collect trash, and get it out of the ocean. They brought up a big pile of tires, plastic, cans, and all sorts of the kind of garbage that smothers the reefs. They turned it into a fun event, inviting divers outside their club, and including a bar-b-que, all while helping out the environment. Rick is like in love with these guys, solely because of their attitude!
My friend Todd wanted to do something for veterans, and their families, involving diving. He had this idea in his head, so he found a way to put together his own free event where disabled veterans from all wars, and their families, are exposed to the underwater world. Todd thinks how diving has changed his life for the better, and wants to share that enthusiasm with the veterans of his local area.
JT started SUDS in a similar way. His wife was assigned to Walter Reed Army Hospital, and he came in contact with all these seriously injured service men and women, who he thought might benefit from the challenges of diving. He just started teaching classes in their pool, with his own money, and his own gear, because no one else was doing it. Eventually, he started Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba (SUDS) as a formal charity. He does a great deal, with very little money. The money SUDS uses, comes from others who want to help.
For the past few years, Haigh Quarry in Illinois has sponsored an event that has raised money for SUDS and other charities, and a supporter from New Jersey hosts an annual fund raiser in his yard for SUDS. All sorts of people donate money to SUDS, and JT and his team work with as many divers as they can. The men and women in the SUDS program are typically severely wounded, they start dive training within weeks of their injuries, and work through the pain, and difficulties, with tremendous dignity. But, one size does not fit all. For example, a diver missing a left arm at the elbow, makes adjustments totally different from a diver missing a leg above the knee. It makes anything most of us might do in diving pretty tame by comparison.
I know another very accomplished diver who is working with a few other guys on designing a boat lift for wheelchair bound divers. In the UK, pretty much all the technical boats have lifts, but they are designed to remove a kitted up diver from the water, not deploy and recover a diver in a wheelchair. A lift, for wheelchair bound ocean divers is a different animal, and a challenge, but I am pretty confident these guys will make it happen.
Two weeks ago, I was on a dive by myself spearfishing (yeah, yeah, I know!). I had already taken a nice mutton snapper, and was looking around for another one who was playing hide and seek with me. It was time to call the dive, when all of a sudden I was rushed by a sneaky little 10' long bull shark. It was a very cool dive, and some memorable interaction. Divers love sharks!
I believe in conservation. I believe in the sustainable, intelligent use of all of our underwater resources. Unfortunately, sharks take a senseless beating, and are needlessly killed pretty much everywhere they are not protected. Personally, I just don't get it? Regardless, my friend Jim is using wounded veterans to try to save the sharks, and other marine life, with a new organization, Operation Blue Pride. Another great organization is Shark Savers, who recently held an fund raising event here in Ft Lauderdale at my neighbor Chris' gallery. Instead of just another Saturday night, a bunch of nice people got together to raise some money to help Shark Savers do what
I could blog on, and on, and on, about all the things in the universe that somehow piss me off. I think that is what bloggers do, maybe even supposed to do? I guess that somewhere in the inner recesses of my psyche, I expect that by sharing my view and airing my complaints, the world will suddenly see things my way!!
Okay this will never happen, but I do feel better bitching about things, like we all do? On the other hand, there are lots of divers who are out there doing wonderful things for our fellow divers, and for the environment. They do what they do, not for personal recognition, but because they want to make the world a better place than it is. There are some truly amazing, and generous people in the diving community, doing what they do and inspiring all of us.
For all of you out there doing great things in diving, I would like to say thanks.