First Blind Solo Kayaker Goes Down Entire Length of Grand Canyon

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Disabled Navy veteran makes history supported and guided by Team River Runner

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Disabled Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell becomes the first completely blind solo kayaker to go down the entire length of the Grand Canyon.

"Running the Grand Canyon was a dream for Joe and me, and now that dream has become a reality. I hope that other disabled persons will be able to share this feeling with me one day and achieve their dreams as well."- Ronnie Bedwell

Disabled Navy veteran Lonnie Bedwell made history last week, becoming the first completely blind solo kayaker to go down the entire length of the Grand Canyon. He achieved this feat when he completed his trek down the Colorado River supported by Team River Runner on Wednesday, August 21. Bedwell, a Navy Veteran from Dugger, Indiana, was guided by three military veterans from Team River Runner who relied only on a system of voice commands to navigate him through the entire trip, including the large, difficult Class V rapids. The 16-day journey was made possible thanks to the help of numerous volunteers and fellow veterans, as well as a generous grant from Check-6 Inc., a service disabled veteran owned company that focuses on safety and training in the energy industry.

By kayaking the entire 226-mile length of the Grand Canyon in a solo kayak, Bedwell not only made history, but he also fulfilled a dream he has long shared with Team River Runner Executive Director, Joe Mornini. "Running the Grand Canyon was a dream for Joe and me, and now that dream has become a reality. I hope that other disabled persons will be able to share this feeling with me one day and achieve their dreams as well,” said Bedwell.

Mornini, who co-founded Team River Runner, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, in 2004 and currently serves as its Executive Director, praised the team effort that engendered this historic achievement and which continues to serve as the ethos of his organization. "No one goes down the Grand Canyon on the river and leaves the same way they entered. Lonnie's three warrior guides, and the entire group of veterans and volunteers, formed a bond that enabled healing and empowerment for all, and a truly historic achievement as a team."

“Joe Mornini has opened the doors for warriors who were wounded to find life again on the water. He is a man of singular vision and energy who saw a need and focused his sites on helping wounded veterans get back in the game,” said Brian “Bru” Brurud, the founder of Check-6, Inc. “Congratulations to Lonnie and Team River Runner on a job very well done!”

ABOUT TEAM RIVER RUNNER
Team River Runner (TRR) was established in August 2004 by kayakers in the Washington, DC area. Overseen by a Board of Directors, and with 10 employees, TRR remains primarily a volunteer-based organization, supported by grants, and corporate and individual donations. Initially established to help active duty military personnel wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, TRR now serves veterans of all eras at over 40 chapters throughout the United States. For more information, visit http://www.teamriverrunner.org.

ABOUT CHECK-6, INC.
Founded in 2007, Check-6 (http://www.checksix.com) is a disabled veteran run organization that brings lessons learned from aviation and the military to other high-risk industries, including oil & gas, mining, and industrial power generation. Check-6 applies the best practices of aircraft carrier operations, commercial aviation, nuclear and space operations to help reduce human error, increasing efficiency in the process. The company has grown from a handful of dedicated people in 2007 to more than 300 working around the world today.

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Michelle Karpathy
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