Heroes on the water: Warrior Sailing program provides much-needed therapy for veterans

Right along Tampa Bay is a powerful program dedicated to helping wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans.

The Warrior Sailing program operates out of St. Petersburg Sailing Center. The non-profit uses donated vessels to expose wounded veterans to the fun of sailing. Cory Kapes, the program manager, said it offers a form of group therapy.

"They come out here for the camaraderie," Kapes told FOX 13, "to be out in the environment to leave their troubles back at the dock. It’s just about providing the environment for these guys to get out and maybe work through some of the issues that they’ve had, maybe to share with others how they’ve gotten past some of the challenges in their lives and simply enjoy a beautiful day here in St. Pete."

The program started back in 2013 as a training camp, but it grew into a nationwide initiative today.

"We saw the joy it brought to these guys and the good that it did," Kapes said. "From then on, we started building a program and now operate around the country year-round providing training opportunities and competitions."

Kapes said any wounded veteran can participate. Those interested can sign-up on the program's website and will be required to take a basic training camp as an introduction.

After that, it's up to them. They can take advantage of becoming a member to rent sailboats throughout the year or even compete.

"For some folks, they become a member here at the Sailing Center. It’s a few hundred bucks for the year. They bring their families out on the weekends. They see some dolphins. They have a blast," Kapes explained. "Other folks have gone on to sail in world championships. They’ve done the races here from St. Pete to Mexico, from Miami to Cuba. We’ve got a little bit of something for everybody. It just depends on what your goals are."

Warrior Sailing accepts donations, whether it be financially, a restaurant wishing to donate lunch, or local sailors who want to share the love of sailing with a veteran.

"We couldn’t do it without that support," Kapes said.

For more information on participating or donating, click over to WarriorSailing.org.