THIS WEEKEND: RETIRED SEALS HOLD CHARITY EVENTS IN KEY WEST

Retired Navy SEALS in 2021 paddle an outrigger canoe from Key West to Fort Pierce, hosting fundraisers along the way at local restaurants. CONTRIBUTED

A group of 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.

The team is set to paddle a six-person ocean outrigger canoe 150 miles from Key West to Miami May 23-26. 

They’ll leave Key West on Monday, May 23 and stop each night in places throughout the Florida Keys and South Florida, where restaurants and other venues will host meet-and-greet fundraising events.

The events in Key West take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 20, 21 and 22, before the paddlers depart from the island.

Each event features a silent auction, raffles and 50/50s as well as a merchandise table to benefit Beyond the Teams, the Navy SEAL Museum and its support services for veterans.

“Each evening’s event is free to attend and all are welcome,” co-organizer Mel Veazey said.

“Beyond the Teams is a group of former Navy SEALs and like-minded individuals, who’ve teamed up to undertake a new kind of mission,” states the group’s website. “We are challenging ourselves and others to focus outward; looking for opportunities to unite, heal and give back to our communities.  We are dedicated to our veterans, their families, and to our greater national well-being.”

Retired SEAL 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. 

“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. The clinic was the 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 the museum in Fort Pierce.

“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. 

“We have guys coming in from Hawaii, Houston, California and other places for this paddle event,” Charbonnet said. “We’re excited and are so appreciative of the support we’ve received from the Keys military and civilian communities.”Visit beyondtheteams.org for more information about the group’s fundraising efforts and adventure missions throughout the country.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.