Monterey Bay veterans Inc. (MBV) “Sports Rehab Center” began in 1987 with the first Wheelchair Salmon Derby. The idea for this derby came from a spinal cord rehabilitation patient, who was undergoing treatment at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration hospital. His idea became a reality after rigorous efforts by the disabled veterans themselves, Veterans Administration staff and the work of a Monterey Bay Veterans core committee. Together they devised a plan to bring spinal cord patients to Monterey for a day of fishing. The effort was a complete success and resulted in the committee meeting with doctors and rehabilitation therapists to discuss the program value and establishing an annual event. With V. A. medical professionals’ approval and support for this therapy approach, all Veterans Administration Medical Centers in California were included for the 1988 Derby. The Derby grew rapidly and by 1991 the organization was formalized as a non-profit 501 c 3 in order to provide the necessary funding for the Derby and a growing number of services. The organization was the first of its kind to provide these types of recreational rehabilitation services for disabled veterans. The Derby served as a model of recreational “diversion therapy” and was the pilot program for the many programs that followed. 2021 celebrated the 34th Annual Wheelchair Fishing Derby. The two annual derbies now host hundreds of participants annually. Including the derbies, MBV provides services for over 5,000 individuals a year.MBV is led by a board consisting of a President, Vice President and six Executive Board Members. These board members are elected by the members of the organization on an annual basis. There are no paid staff positions. The all-volunteer organization is headed by an Executive Director. The organization’s marine physical assets include “Freedom II”, a 66 foot Enterprise used for all other marine sports and touring. In addition, the Monterey based sports fishing fleet and dozens of private boat owners make their vessels available for the two annual fishing derbies. The land based assets include wheelchair accessible golf carts and vans. Since its inception with the first Derby, the organization has expanded to incorporate other recreational marine activities and also provides services to nonveterans who have a 40% or greater disability. Though based in Monterey, California; the tens of thousands who have benefitted from MBV services come from throughout the Central Coast, the State of California and the whole of the United States.The main focus is, and will remain, the marine recreational rehabilitation therapy programs. Through these programs the physically challenged are provided equal access to all regular sporting marine activities. The programs include:- Sports fishing, including an annual spring salmon derby and autumn rock fishing derby- Boat safety courses- Sightseeing - Marine environmental education In 2004 the “Freedom Tour” was launched. This program provides the opportunity to deliver rehabilitative services to hundreds of disabled veterans throughout the state who are unable to make the trip to Monterey. Over the years these annual tours have included making port in Napa, Alameda, Oakland, San Francisco, Morro Bay, Ventura, Marina Del Rey, Newport Beach and San DiegoIntegration of the physically challenged community into normal daily activities and recreation is the core of MBV’s mission. Over the years operations have expanded to encompass many other outdoor recreational events and venues. The “Physically Challenged Assistance Program” began with a project requested by Peter Smith, the founding President of Cal State University of Monterey Bay. MBV provided consultation and direct services to ensure wheelchair access for the Grand Dedication Ceremony of CSUMB, where the keynote speaker was President Bill Clinton. Using the same infrastructure and approach today, MBV is able to make outdoor recreational venues wheelchair accessible with transportation in and around the venues and parking facilities utilizing wheelchair accessible golf carts, vans and shuttles. These services are currently provided for the following venues:- Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway- Monterey Jazz Festival- Pebble Beach Concourse d’ Elegance,- Seaotter Classic- Spirit West Coast Monterey- A T & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am- Pebble Beach First Tee Open - The California Rodeo, Salinas
These programs have also had positive long term effects on expanding accessibility for physically challenged throughout Monterey County. Among the benefits are the wheelchair ramp built on Cannery Row next to the Coast Guard Jetty. This ramp, promoted by MBV and built by the city of Monterey, provides wheelchair access to the pier and a wheelchair boat loading ramp. Another significant accomplishment was providing the draft documentation, sponsorship and passage of California AB 2268, which provides that veterans participating in an event or activity sponsored by a rehabilitation center, such as Monterey Bay Veterans Inc., are not required to purchase fishing licenses.The impact MBV has had on the community and the state has garnered significant recognition over the years. In addition to the many letters of thanks and support, the organization has received the following acknowledgements:- City of San Diego proclamation; May 25th , 2005 was Monterey Bay Veterans Day- City of San Diego; Key to the City.- Monterey County ADA Commission award for our Physically Challenged Transportation Assistance program.- State Assembly Proclamation recognizing and commending MBV Inc. “for outstanding contributions it has made to California Veterans”.- State Senate recognition “for an exemplary record of service”.- Bravo channel filmed and broadcast nationally a thirty minute special covering the annual wheelchair derbies and their participants.- A portion of the Freedom tour in 2007 was filmed by Time Warner News and broadcast nationally during the presidential debates.
As noted above, MBV is a non-profit with a relatively small budget, a dedicated group of volunteers and an enormous mission. MBV maintains a close working relationship with all military and veterans groups and with their support we constantly strive to improve and expand the programs, and provide rehabilitation activities to a wider group of those who can benefit from our unique services. MBV is currently handling an expansion of 10% annually in the population we serve. There are countless more that would like to be included in our programs. The organization is already having a tremendous impact throughout California and the ultimate goal is to be able to spread this program nationally. Our limitations are not self-imposed, nor restricted by the demographics of our served groups. Our ability to reach additional participants is only limited by the amount of funding we are able to generate. The organization is solely funded through private and corporate donations and grants, and through volunteer based fund raising efforts.