Disabled veterans go kayaking on Pinewood Lake

Kayakers on Pinewood Lake are a pretty common sight in the summer, but the group that took to the water Friday was unique in that it was composed of blind and disabled veterans.

“There is a great camaraderie among veterans,” said 80-year-old Fred Chidester, who recently finished 22nd among his age group in a world competition in Boston. “It means so much for participants to be out enjoying the sunshine and warm water” with their peers, he said.

Doug Reid, 76, said kayaking helps the veterans alleviate stress and lift spirits, in addition to being a great way to get exercise.

Tom Dorney, an outreach coordinator with the group Veterans Rowing and Kayaking, said the organization worked with veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury and other ailments. The group runs programs in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The veterans were joined by local elected officials, including State Rep. Laura Devlin.

Robert Harriman, an 89-year-old veteran of World War II said he enjoyed being on the water despite being legally blind.

"Don't focus on what you can't do,” he said. “Focus on what you can do and you just might surprise yourself.”