BAKERSFIELD, CALIF. — Scuba diving might seem daunting at first but the Aqua-Nut Divers are making it accessible in Bakersfield, specifically for disabled veterans.
"We want to encourage them to have an outlet and just reintegrate back into society healthily," said Martha Schimon.
Martha and Eric Schimon were on a diving trip in Mexico when they met a paraplegic diver.
They were inspired by her, and trained to become instructors through the Handicap Scuba Association. Now, their nonprofit has been working with local veterans since 2017.
“We decided we wanted to bring this to Bakersfield and let them know that scuba is available here, and we want to help [specifically] our disabled military veterans," said Martha.
The program is free for veterans thanks to fundraisers like the 'Try Scuba In A Pool' event happening August 13 at the Bakersfield Racquet Club.
It’s open to anyone and the $30 fee goes towards training disabled vets.
Eric said it’s a rewarding event in more ways than one.
"It’s great to have the community support us whether it's through donations or people giving us their old scuba gear," he said. "It feels good. It’s good for us. It's good for our veterans. It makes them feel like people still remember what they did for their country."
The group also takes vets on boat trips at Catalina Island.
“As they’re learning together, they build that confidence. They start having that battle-buddy kind of relationship," said Martha. "They're having those stronger relationships as they dive together and rely on each other while diving."
If you can’t attend the fundraiser, you can donate online.
“For us to be able to give something to them at no cost to them is just [a] great feeling and their gratitude is just awesome to see how they feel after they learn how to scuba," said Eric.
You must RSVP by emailing email@example.com before attending the event.
If you’d like to learn more or donate, click here.