One of my favorite things about being an outdoors lover in Central Virginia is discovering the communities of enthusiasts that exist because of their particular outdoors passion. I’ve done plenty of canoeing and even some standup paddleboarding on the James River, but I’ve never really been plugged in to the whitewater paddling community here in Richmond. This week I found out just how close knit paddlers in RVA are while working on a story for tomorrow’s Times-Dispatch column.
For five years, whitewater enthusiasts have gathered every first Saturday in December to celebrate the past year of boating — on the James and elsewhere. It started as “Retro Movie Night” — where participants would show the home movies they made of the water they ran that year at The Camel — and quickly became a day of paddling, grilling out at the 14th St. takeout and movies.
According to event founders Hunter Davis and Ben Moore, usually about 75 or so whitewater lovers would show up and have a great time catching up on what everyone was up to. This year, Retro Movie Night has morphed into the “James River Hustle.” Saturday will still be a day to celebrate all things paddling in Richmond, but there will also be a 5k, a silent auction and gear sales – all to benefit a longtime member of the community.
Greg Hawkins was the head of the VCU Outdoor Adventure Program for 13 years. He left two years ago to take the same job at Boise State. This past September, despite never being a smoker, he found out he has lung cancer. Hawkins will have to take a leave of absence from his job to fly to Houston for treatment. The bills will mount and his friends in the Richmond whitewater community wanted to do something for him. The proceeds from the 5K and the silent auction will go toward helping defray Hawkins’ medical expenses. It’s the least guys like Moore, Davis and others say they can do to help a friend who helped so many discover Richmond’s outdoor opportunities.
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