NOLI, ACA team up to train certified rescue instructors in Nolichucky River

A trainee holds onto another during training exercise on June 19, 2020. Photo: Jonathan Roberts/Johnson City Press

As a veteran himself, helping other veterans is an issue that’s “near and dear” to Scott Fisher, founder of the Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute.

So, when the opportunity arose to partner with Team River Runner — a non-profit dedicated to providing on-river recreational therapy for veterans — to provide whitewater safety and rescue training to veterans for free, Fisher was “super excited to be involved.”

“We will always do whatever we can to help these guys out, even if it’s not in any way profitable to us,” Fisher said of veterans, “It’s important that we look out for these folks.”

On Saturday and Sunday, around a dozen vets from four states and about a half-dozen Team River Runner chapters will make the trip to Erwin to take part in the class, which Fisher said has the potential to have an exponential impact as the trainees disseminate the skills they learned back in their home communities.

“With whitewater, we can manage and mitigate risk, but we can’t remove risk completely, and that’s where the safety training comes in,” Fisher said. “If we can provide good safety training that will help these vets be safer on the water — that’s really central to what we do.”

Bill Finger, Team River Run’s assistant national program director, said having a partner like NOLI is crucial and that offering these safety trainings are critically important.

“Being able to give back to those who have served and given to us in so many ways — being able to do that through kayaking, generally, and training specifically, gives me joy,” Finger said. “Knowing that I am giving veterans something that can bring meaning and enjoyment to their lives and can help them reconnect and that can be a lifelong adventure for them is what keeps me involved and keeps me running events for vets.”

Fisher said he would absolutely be interested in partnering with Team River Runner on future training events, and that they had initially tried to start the program back in April but had to reschedule due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“(Finger) and I have known each other a long time, we’re both equally committed to helping the vets, and this is a great way to do that,” Fisher said.

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