Mike Ryan and the Wounded Warrior Project

Published 10:00 pm Friday, May 30, 2014


Mike Ryan who splits his time between Saluda and Charleston, SC is a licensed boating captain with a goal: To help put the nation’s wounded servicemen and women on sailboats as therapy.  “It’s great recreational therapy to get on the water,” Ryan says. He’s also raising funds to help these folks in other ways.
Growing up in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Ryan found ocean activities practically at arm’s length. He “got on the water naturally,” he recalled, and developed a love of the salt air, sailing and diving.
He was the force behind the May 24 Wounded Warrior fundraiser hosted by the Green River Brew Depot is Saluda. Also billed as the Low-Country Boil, it featured shrimp, home-made sausage, corn-on-the cob, and potatoes, plus music. Other food was available for children, Ryan said. “We tried to make it family oriented.”
A special raffle gave six entrants, including one Wounded Warrior, free sailing trips run by Ocean Sailing Academy off the Charleston coast.
Why the fundraiser? “To do something for Wounded Warriors, and for Memorial Day,” Ryan answered. Ocean Sailing Academy, of which Ryan is the director of operations, offers individuals the opportunity to “sail calm, sail confident, sail for fun.”
Ryan had been an OSA volunteer for Charleston Sailing Week, the largest sailing regatta in the U.S. OSA’s sailing school, with licensed captains known world-wide, Ryan noted.
He also began a separate operation, Saluda by the Sea, where he conducts sailing adventures and which is approved for Wounded Warrior activities. With a background in boating and diving, Ryan “wanted veterans and Wounded Warriors to get on boats and do some sailing,” noting the activity’s therapeutic benefits.
Ryan said the May 24 event on Memorial Weekend, conducted under Saluda by the Sea, was also approved by the Wounded Warrior Project. Visitors to the event purchased some 170 tickets at $15 each, for a heaping plate of hot food, as well as fun music provided by the Handle Bar Jam Band of Greenville. Green River Brew Depot owner Ken Smith hired the band and hosted the event.
Net proceeds after costs, of some $900 – plus, will go to the Wounded Warrior Project. Ryan had hoped that the Wounded Warrior Project would have become more involved with the Saluda event, but acknowledged that “Memorial Day had them spread out.”
This was a start, though, a boost both for Ryan’s sailing business and for his involvement with the Wounded Warrior Project. “It’ll get people sailing”, Ryan said. It will also help Ryan take the next step to do something for those guys (Wounded Warriors).
The local community showed plenty of support with raffle and silent auction donations from artists Dorrie McKinley, Ray Pague, Richard Baker, Jim Carson; and from Green River Adventures, The Gorge, Saluda Grade Cafe, the Purple Onion, Thompson’s Store and many others.
“For me this gave a whole lot of public awareness (to the Wounded Warrior Project),” said Ryan. “I thank all the people in Saluda,” added Ryan, for those donations and volunteer help. He especially thanked the Green River Brew Depot and bartender Cindy West.
Ryan, who lived in Saluda in the 1980s and who has been back and forth in Saluda for the past 15 years, can’t stay away.  “It’s the only place I’ve come back to,” he said. It’s great to be able to have the mountains (in and near Saluda) and the ocean (off of Charleston).” As for sailing, ”It’s pretty hard to give up once you’ve been there to feel the wind and the waves.”
With Ryan’s increased interest in the Wounded Warrior Project more people will discover that feeling.

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