TROY’s Panama City Area Alumni Chapter has learned that
when you combine one of the fastest-growing water sports with
a worthy cause, you get exciting results.
The chapter played host to its first-ever paddleboard race on
Veterans Day to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. The race,
which covered about 10 kilometers from the Russell-Fields Pier
to the M.B. Miller Pier at back, drew 30 participants and many
more casual paddlers.
While the idea for the race had been considered for some
time, it wasn’t until a chance meeting between chapter President
Phillipe Asselin and a representative of the Wounded Warrior
Project that the project began to take shape.
“I was traveling in Texas and ended up having dinner late at a
place next to my hotel,” Asselin said. “I was pretty tired at 10:30,
and felt a little down because I had to be away from my family
that week. This guy walks up to me and asks how I am doing…
he is scarred all over from severe burns to his body. I felt like
a fool for feeling down, as this guy is full of positive energy
and has every reason to be down. He then shares he is with the
Wounded Warrior Project, and I knew this was not a coincidence.
His story was amazing to hear and brought me into the reality
of what our troops must endure. He shared what they do as an
organization and I knew that this was meant to be.”
Asselin said he was a bit worried about holding such an event
so late in the year. Those fears were quickly put to rest when he
began to see the interest and response grow.
“I wanted it to be in support of our veterans, and benefit the
University as well,” he said. “We are fortunate to have a great
military enrollment at Troy University, and this race had active
and retired military participants, including some veterans. It was
a great way to honor and support our American heroes.”
This year’s event raised $300 for the Wounded Warrior Project,
and Asselin expects participation and support of the cause to
increase with future races.
“I believe we can grow this to national acclaim in time, and help
many more of our American heroes,” he said. “Next year we
will definitely market it more aggressively, and also have pre-
registration and other time and resource savers to help improve
our processes. We learned a lot in our first race, and look forward
to more like this next year.”
Sponsors for the event were: Mr. Surf ’s, Ron Jon’s, Sport Clips,
Shane’s Rib Shack, Red Robin, Buffalo Wild Wings, Surfside
Pawn, DRT and Waterworx Car Wash. Lisa Kitto, director of
the University’s Panama City Site, was outstanding in providing
resources that helped successfully brand this event as a TROY
function, Asselin said.