Wounded Veterans Dive Into Ocean Conservation With DiveBar

DiveBar’s pilot ROOT project brought together disabled veterans, DiveBar attorneys and marine scientists to support NSU’s Coral Nursery Initiative

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – In late June, DiveBar’s pilot ROOT project culminated under the sea with some remarkably heroic scuba divers—military veterans with service-related disabilities. ROOT—Restoring Our Oceans Together—pairs up specially-trained divers with wounded military veterans, some of whom are paraplegics or who have had limbs amputated in combat. The project, which is a collaboration between DiveBar, Diveheart and Nova Southeastern University’s Coral Nursery Initiative (NSU CNI), is designed to enhance the lives of veterans with disabilities through scuba and to give them a new mission—reef conservation.

Preparation for the June ROOT dive began months ago with specialized training. Throughout spring, DiveBar lawyers trained with Diveheart to become certified adaptive dive buddies. Because the disabled veterans may require some assistance, the adaptive dive buddies were specially trained to address any of the veterans’ special needs. On June 24, the teams embarked on a two-dive trip. On the first dive they transplanted corals and performed maintenance at the offshore nursery belonging to NSU’s Coral Nursery Initiative. Afterwards, the dive teams visited DiveBar Reef: a dive site where DiveBar lawyers and NSU’s scientists outplanted approximately 1500 staghorn corals over the past two years. The site, which originally was a nearly barren patch of ocean floor, now resembles a young reef drawing in new fish life. While there the team assessed the condition of the reef and outplanted corals.

Michael R. Kaufman, Esq., a DiveBar board member and certified Diveheart adaptive scuba instructor, helped train the adaptive dive buddies and the veterans. “The veterans were disabled during their military service to protect our country. Now we’ve given them a new mission—to restore our oceans,” said Kaufman.

“The dive was a huge success,” noted Alina O’Connor, president of DiveBar, who was one of the adaptive dive buddies. “The military divers, despite their physical impairments, successfully transplanted several corals. The experience gave them a real sense of accomplishment and a new perspective on their abilities.”

As part of DiveBar’s broader “Putting Something Back Scuba Style” program, DiveBar created, coordinated, and provided the majority of the funding for, the ROOT pilot project and its organizers are now working to raise awareness and garner support so the program can continue.

“ROOT empowers wounded veterans to explore the world beyond their wheelchairs or the limits of their disabilities,” said Robert W. Kelley, Esq., co-founder of DiveBar and managing partner with law firm Kelley/Uustal. “They’re not just restoring corals to the ocean floor; they’re restoring a level of freedom to their lives.”

Now in its fourth year, DiveBar has continued its tradition of promoting scuba-related philanthropic projects. DiveBar has a history of supporting adaptive diving and coral restoration. ROOT is a natural outgrowth of those efforts; it combines those experiences while also serving American Heroes.

About DiveBar

DiveBar is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit voluntary bar association composed of legal professionals that promotes education and awareness about coral reefs and the marine environment through scuba diving, philanthropic activities, professional networking and learning experiences. Divers and non-divers alike are welcome to join. Learn more at www.TheDiveBar.org.

About Diveheart

Diveheart was started in 2001 and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The goal of the program is to help people of all ages with disabilities realize their capabilities and overcome any obstacles they may face. “We are all equals underwater.” said Jim Elliot, President and Founder of Diveheart who also participated in the June 24 dive. Learn more at www.Diveheart.org.

About Nova Southeastern University’s Coral Nursery Initiative

The NSU Coral Nursery Initiative (CNI) is a hallmark research project of the Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. Located off the coast of Broward County Florida, the CNI offers hope for recovery of the threatened staghorn coral species, Acropora cervicornis, and for coral reef restoration.

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