While veteran runner Maurice “Moe” Chabuz has logged countless miles in marathons from New York City to Oregon, this Saturday he’ll be lacing up his sneakers on St. John to help wounded war veterans.
Chabuz will be running the 8 Tuff Miles road race on Saturday, February 25, as a fundraiser for Team River Runner (TRR).
A non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., TRR is dedicated to bringing health and healing to wounded veterans through kayak adventures. Wounded soldiers begin training on kayaks in pools at veterans hospitals and then take their skills out to white water rapids, rivers and oceans across the United States.
By combining the adventure of white water sports and the camaraderie of fellow wounded veterans, TRR manages to give veterans an outlet for their pent up physical and mental energy.
TRR was launched at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2004 by local kayak enthusiast Joe Mornini. Since then, TRR chapters have spread to veterans hospitals across the country, mostly led by wounded service men and women who take on leadership roles after completing the kayak program themselves.
For the past five years, TRR has brought groups of veterans and their spouses to St. John for a week of ocean kayaking, snorkeling and camaraderie at Cinnamon Bay Campground. With help from local restaurants, businesses and community service organizations, the veterans enjoy meals, boating trips and more thanks to in kind donations. But the group still has to cover airfare for the veterans, which can top $30,000.
For the past three years, Chabuz has used his 8 Tuff Miles race as a way to help make sure that veterans can continue to enjoy that week of healing on St. John. This past summer, Chabuz visited Mornini and spent a morning kayaking with wounded veterans, which left a lasting impression on the St. John business owner.
“After seeing what TRR offers to these wounded veterans and seeing the huge impact this program has on veterans, it’s amazing,” said Chabuz. “It gives them an outlet to be active and doing something instead of just sitting around. And through this program veterans also reach out to each other.”
TRR is a mostly volunteer run organization, with only one paid position. The group relies on donations to support its trips including the St. John kayak adventure.
“They all work so hard and it’s all volunteer except for one paid employee,” said Chabuz. “It’s so inspirational what they are doing, if I can help in any way I’m happy to do so.”
Chabuz is asking for donations of any amount from a penny to a dollar or more for every runner he passes from the 9 Tuff Miles starting line in Cruz Bay to the finish line in the Coral Bay ball field.
Chabuz will begin the 8 Tuff Miles race at the very back of the pack of runners — expected to be about 1,100 for the 16th annual race this Saturday — and hopes to pass at least 800 runners, if not more, en route to the finish line.
Last year Chabuz crossed the finish line in one hour, 18 minutes and five seconds, placing 159th overall. His race netted about $10,000 and this year he’s hoping to at least match that amount.
This year, Chabuz will also have a running mate in the form of Andre Colliers, a wounded veteran who will be right by his side during the 8 Tuff Miles. Colliers spent a week on St. John with TRR last year and this year has returned to the states in a leadership role with the group.
In additional to supporting Chabuz’s race, Colliers will remind both runners and spectators of the importance of TRR’s work.
For more information about TRR check out www.teamriverrunner.org. For more information about Chabuz’s fundraising race, check out www.skinnylegs.com. Tax deductible checks can be made out to TRR and dropped off at Skinny Legs. Chabuz will accept donations of any kind, all of which will be sent to TRR.