A group of about 16 Navy SEALS may be retired from active duty, but are still serving their country and its people, having accepted a new mission as members of the nonprofit group Beyond the Teams.
Mike Charbonnet started Beyond the Teams — named for the various SEAL Teams that undertake dangerous, classified and live-saving missions around the world (does SEAL Team 6 sound familiar?) — for SEAL life after active duty.
“Beyond the Teams is a group of former Navy SEALs who have teamed up to undertake a new kind of mission,” said Charbonnet, whose son, also a SEAL, became paralyzed from the waist down during a parachuting accident and needed neurological rehabilitation at a clinic in San Diego, California.
“VIP Neuro Rehabilitation Clinic doesn’t accept insurance because they don’t want to have to turn away someone who’s not insured, so all their funding comes from donations, grants and fundraisers,” said Charbonnet. He made the clinic the first recipient of the first Beyond the Teams epic fundraiser in 2019, when the team embarked on a 1,000-mile bike ride from Virginia Beach to Fort Pierce, Florida, where the Navy SEAL Museum is located.
“Members of Beyond the Teams conduct fund-raising events for organizations and causes that help people with physical disabilities, cultural disadvantages and practical needs going unmet because they are the ‘little guys,” the organization’s website states.
This year’s fundraiser puts the SEALS back in the water, or at least on it. They’ll be paddling a six-person outrigger canoe 300 miles, from Key West to Fort Pierce, from May 25 to May 31. The team will paddle about 50 miles a day and stop for the night in Marathon, Key Largo, Miami, Boca Raton and Fort Pierce.
Each night’s stop will include a meet-and greet, silent auction and raffles, said Mel Veazey, a Cudjoe Key resident whose husband, Allen, is also a retired SEAL. The local couple is helping Charbonnet assemble the plans and coordinate hotel rooms, meals and evening event venues in the Keys.
“We have guys coming in from Hawaii, Houston, California and other places for this paddle event,” Charbonnet said. The paddle will start from Key West or Stock Island, depending on water conditions, and La Trattoria Oceanside will host a sendoff event for the guys before they shove off and start paddling north.
“Any money we save on hotel rooms, meals and venues will mean more money for this year’s recipient charity,” Charbonnet said. “We’ll take any help we can get. Be it hotel rooms, a vacant home, an evening event venue or silent auction prizes.”
This year’s proceeds will benefit the Navy SEAL Museum’s charitable umbrella, known as Trident House Charities, which provides scholarships for children of the Special Operations community, family support for medical needs not covered by federal funding, a Trident House respite home for families and SEALs readjusting to life after deployment and a K9 project that provides specially trained assistance dogs for veterans.
To help Beyond the Teams, email [email protected].