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.
2012 celebrated the 25th Annual Wheelchair Salmon Derby. Two annual derbies now host hundreds of participants annually. Including all projects, MBV provides services for over 5,000 individuals a year.
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 benefited 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 ocean sports activities.
MBV programs include:
- Sports fishing, including annual salmon and rock cod fishing derbiesl
- Scuba diving instruction and certification
- Boat safety courses
- 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, San Diego, and Sacramento.
Operations continue to expand and now 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,
- California International Air Show
- 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 is 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 declares 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.
MBV is fortunate to have developed critical working relationships with various military and veterans groups, most notably the Disabled American Veterans (D.A.V.).
The breadth of our programs and the demand for these services continue to grow annually.