Stand up 4 Seals beach challenge Saturday

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Event will raise money for the families of those killed in action 

OCEAN CITY –  Everyone is invited to “join the fight” at the second annual Stand Up 4 SEALS Challenge on the Eighth Street beach on Saturday, May 24, honoring Navy SEALS and assisting the families of those lost in battle.

The athletic endurance fundraising event begins at 8 a.m. and will include a two mile beach “mud run” with an assortment of challenges – including an obstacle course - a stand up paddle board relay through the surf and a children’s fun run.

“We’re extremely excited,” said Becky Earle Jenkins, who is coordinating the Stand-up Paddleboard event. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The master of ceremonies for the event will be Lt. Cmdr. Ben Charles of the US Navy, a 1995 Ocean City High School graduate.

“We’re thrilled to have him with us,” said Amy Vaules, one of several volunteers coordinating the effort.

Organizers built on the success of the inaugural event and have created more challenges. Last year, large mountains of sand rose from the strand; this year there will be more of them, and they will be higher.

“We added more hills and a bigger plunge,” Vaules said. “We have some new obstacles, some new workouts.”

Honoring the elite Navy unit established five decades ago by President John F. Kennedy to operate in any environment, Sea, Air and Land, the patriotic tribute is a natural for Ocean City, said Vaules.

The story of Navy SEAL Adam Brown, “Fearless,” by Eric Blehm, she said, spurred organizers into action last year. Brown, a member of the Elite SEAL Team SIX, a counterterrorism unit that eventually took down Osama bin Laden, died on March 17, 2010 in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan.

SEALS are called upon to perform a wide variety of duties, Vaules noted.

“They put their lives on the line to help others,” she said.

“We want to pay it forward, offer assistance to them when they get home, and if they don’t make it home, help their families,” she said.  “They leave behind families, wives and children and they need our help.”

Jenkins said the SUP event will be a huge challenge – and a lot more fun.

“The fun part is we have added an obstacle,” she said.

Competitors will do a “lap” on the paddleboard in the ocean, then transition to shore. 

“You run up and down the sand hill, you do 10 burpees, a cross fit move, and 10 push-ups,” she said. “Then you run back through the gate and grab your board and do it again.

“One person can do this, four times, or you can do it as a team, and each time you go through the gate a new competitor takes over,” she said. Team members would in a sense pass the baton. “They will do a high five, it’s going to be fun.”

Last year, she said, some competitors in the paddleboard event bemoaned the fact that they could not do the paddleboard and compete in the sand.

“So we enhanced it, and if they want, they can do the paddleboard and even compete in the other obstacle course too,” she said. 

Weather was a big factor last year, Vaules noted. This year, the forecast looks good for the weekend.

“We’re hoping for a big push,” she said, adding that registration is ahead of last year.

The event received a boost on social media.

“Ron Gifford started it off on Facebook,” she said, of the “cold water challenge.” Gifford challenged councilmen to accept the challenge and compete, with a $20 donation, or decline it and offer a $100 donation. Those who accepted the challenge in turn challenged several more friends, and it spread like wildfire through Facebook, Vaules said.

 “It got so big, so quickly,” she said.

Vaules said organizers are proud to be involved.

“Every dollar that we raise is going directly to Stand Up 4 SEALS, directly to the families and that’s why we’re doing it,” she said. “It’s all volunteers, 100 percent of the proceeds after expenses are paid go to the families.

While billed as fun, the event will also be emotional, she said, which is why they are hosting it on Memorial Day weekend. While the competition is fun and exciting, the real work of the Navy SEALs is dangerous and sometimes deadly.

“At the end of the event, the winner of the stand-up paddle boarding event will lead a paddle out into the water,” she said.

Competitors will form a circle and cast a wreath into the ocean.

Each year on the morning of Memorial Day, before the beaches are officially open, members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol gather on the Ninth Street beach and salute American veterans. Two lifeguards then place a wreath in a lifeboat and row the boat offshore where they cast it into the sea.

Jenkins, owner of OC Paddleboard at 1054 Asbury Ave., said she is “very proud” to be among the sponsors of the event as well as help organize it.

“To be able to support the Navy SEAL Foundation is what we’re all about,” she said. “We’re doing this to help because of what they do for us every day. The reason we stand free is because of them.”

See www.standup4seals.com for more information and to register.

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