This was the very first IGY6; event under our new leadership structure and with a new vision for helping our veteran and first responder community. The IGY6; Foundation's new board members were voted in as follows: President of The IGY6; Foundation James Urban, Founder of The IGY6; Foundation and Vice-President Andy Velez, Karla Fuentes Business Outreach Director, and Danielle Urban Chief Financial Officer. James and Andy kept the original primary mission to help veterans that are struggling with depression and in need of support. However, The board members sat down dug deeper to define the ways in which they have found peace and growth in their own individual journeys and how it can help struggling veterans. "Through my turmoiled history with substance abuse, alienation from family, and depression I often contemplated suicide as an answer to end my mental health struggles." James says.
"When I needed to escape the war in my mind, I could completely lose myself by seeking an adventure that would light something within my mind soul."
So, for James and Andy's first event working together, they chose to incorporate their love for the outdoors, adventures, and veterans. We had no idea what to expect doing an event like this and if this was even going to be feasible. Taking seven veterans swimming with sharks was just an idea... a crazy idea at that, but if we could pull it off, it would most definitely make a splash (no pun intended) in the veteran community.
Will this event be a therapeutic approach to helping with veterans mental health?
An event like Shark Swimming certainly sounded fun and exciting but the question on everyone's mind was, "Will it serve its purpose and act as a holistic approach to treating depression and anxiety within our community?" I think we got that answer and more. The takeaways from this event were astounding and will act as the mold for how we will operate for many events to come. We will continue to add to our winning formula as The IGY6; Foundation matures through experience and knowledge.
"Beards For The Brave"
The IGY6; Foundation found a sponsor for our first event through the fundraising efforts of Just 1 Outreach & Beard Mobb Florida: Beards For The Brave event. "As a person that was unfamiliar with the beard community, and beard competitions, this was an interesting fundraising event to get my feet wet with The IGY6; Foundation." James says. We had no idea the amazing turnout and success we would have with this event, but it became the nucleus for everything great that would come in the next couple of months. The next step was planning an event that would help heal our community of veterans and first responders. But what??
Planning Our First Adventure
The IGY6; Foundation wanted to make our first event a BIG one, but we were left bouncing ideas off of each other for what seemed like months. "We wanted to incorporate the things that helped us in our own personal journeys and through our own struggles." James goes on to say, "I always knew that when I needed to escape the war in my mind, I could completely lose myself by seeking an adventure that would light something within my soul."
While sitting out on the lake one night, drifting in and out of thoughts, "It came to me like a bolt of lightening... Shark Swimming!" James recounts. James grabbed the phone and called Andy to get his opinion on creating a shark swimming event for veterans. "Sure... let's do it..." in Andy's very quiet calming voice.
"I thought Andy was going to tell me I was "completely nuts" an