Little takes big dreams to West Coast clinic

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Doug Little of Fruitvale participated in the second annual National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic held Sept. 19 through Sept. 26 in San Diego, Calif. Little competed in surfing, sailing and bicycling during the clinic.

It had been a while since Doug Little had been on the ocean.

It didn’t take long for him to remember what he loved about it.

Two of Little’s three event at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic two weeks ago were on the water off the shores of San Diego. He relished every moment of it.

“It really was great,” the 49-year-old Grand Junction resident said.

In fact, everything about the second annual event struck Little as first class.

Little participated in bicycling, surfing and sailing at the weeklong event, which began Sept. 19 with the opening ceremonies at Sea World.

Little served in Central America during his Army tour in the 1980s but became disabled after he suffered a stroke 13 years ago. Since then, he’s been working with the Veterans Administration in Grand Junction doing physical rehabilitation.

He’s enjoyed competing in the veterans winter games in Snowmass over the years. This was his first try at some of the summer events the sports clinic had to offer.

The bicycle tour took him through Old Town and the Gaslight District of San Diego.

“I had this hand-cranked bike,” he said, a new experience for him.

Then it was on to the water.

The surfing event was at La Jolla Beach.

“(It was) just the fact that I could do it, even though I was on my knees,” Little said of surfing for the first time in 30 years. “Although I swallowed a lot of sea water.”

Mary Lou Doak, a friend of Little’s who accompanied him on the trip, said he looked like a natural on the board.

“Doug caught 15 waves in 15 minutes,” Doak said.

That drew compliments from the hordes of volunteers helping with the clinic.

If there was one thing that impressed Little and Doak, it was the volunteers.

At each event, there were at least six volunteers helping the veterans, especially in surfing. They were supported by another volunteer crew in the staging area, including three San Diego Chargers cheerleaders.

The other event in which Little participated was sailing, something he hadn’t done in 40 years.

Little was part of a team that took sailboats out on the Pacific Ocean.

Even more enjoyable, those veterans who participated in sailing got a bonus trip. They got to sail on the Stars and Stripes, the vessel that competed in the America’s Cup in the 1980s.

“It was really cool,” said Little, who even got to take the helm of the legendary yacht.

Nearly 70 disabled veterans participated in the event. If next year’s event doesn’t conflict with his schedule, Little is ready to do it again.

“What this clinic is all about is letting these guys know they can do anything they want to do,” Doak said. “They may (just) have to do it in a different way.”

Such as hand-cranked bicycles or surfing on your knees.

“It really was great,” Little said.


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