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Garden State Powerboaters Give Back to Veterans

Understandably dedicated to good times on the water—after all they pay a lot for the privilege—members of the powerboating community around the country give back. That’s just a fact. And nowhere is that more true than with the New Jersey Performance Powerboat Club.

For the past 14 years, the club has helped produce Shore Dreams for Kids, a day-long event of boat rides, carnival rides, food and fun for children with mental or physical challenges and their families. For the past four years, as part of the Atlantic City Speed Weekend, NJPPC has been hosting veterans and their families for an afternoon of boat rides and a reception at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino.

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Well-known New Jersey performance-boat owner Bob Christie used his Cigarette 42X (shown above during last Friday’s NJPPC Powerboat Rally) with twin 1,100-hp engines from Mercury Racing to give Vietnam veteran Gary Munkens and his wife, Wanda, the ride of their lives. Photo courtesy/copyright Tim Sharkey/Sharkey Images.

Yesterday, the group partnered with the Combat Wounded Veterans of America, which provides help to combat wounded veterans of all U.S. military conflicts cut through red tape to receive proper services, educate the general public about the sheer numbers of women and men who have been wounded in combat through the generations, provide social events for veterans to interact, and peer mentoring.

“There is great benefit in, for example, a wounded veteran from the Korean Conflict being able to talk and provide guidance to a much younger vet,” said Tony Ntellas, executive director of CWVA. “The older Veteran can relate easily and can say, ‘I’ve walked in your shoes, this is what worked for me, this is what didn’t.’”

For NJPPC co-founder Dave Patnaude, the decision was made to reach out to veterans’ groups four years ago when he and other club members learned of the huge number of recent wounded combat veterans—severely injured men and women who’ve returned home from their service as triple amputees, tragically disfigured or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Patnaude said the event is never short of volunteers, despite the $200 to $300 in fuel most will spend for an afternoon of joy riding veterans around the Jersey Shore, along with the coast of staying one or two extra nights in a hotel to participate in the event.

“This is the best part of the weekend,” said Bob Christie, whose Cigarette 42X Jersey Strong hosted Vietnam veteran Gary Munkens and his wife, Wanda, from Toms River, N.J., neither of whom have been on a go-fast’ boat before. “It’s really a small way for us to say thank you to those who served and sacrificed.”

The Munkens reached 100 mph during the ride in Christie’s 42-footer.

“Crosses one thing I thought I’d never do from my bucket list,” Wanda said after the ride.

Gary, who was poker-faced during the short walk to the boat and the slow trip through the channel to the Atlantic Ocean, broke into a huge smile when the boat went on plane; a smile that never left his face the entire ride at speed, as well as idling back to the docks.

“I did a dragster ride a few years ago, but it’s not the same,” he explained. “You really feel the speed on water more than on land, I think.”

One observation from the docks on a gorgeous afternoon with near-perfect boating weather: Every veteran and family member came off the water smiling. Only the grins on the faces of the captains—the giving folks who had the honor of thanking the men and women for their service and sacrifice with a thrill ride on the water—were broader.

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