Local veteran Jimmy Thomas returns to Glenville after kayaking to Florida and biking back to New York

Jimmy Thomas is covered with an American flag blanket as he arrives at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville Saturday.

Jimmy Thomas is covered with an American flag blanket as he arrives at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville Saturday.

GLENVILLE – Local veteran Jimmy Thomas returned to Glenville on Saturday after kayaking and cycling 4,000 miles to raise money for veterans’ service dogs.

A crowd of about 120 people cheered Thomas on as he rode his bike the final stretch of his journey Saturday, finishing outside of the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville.

Thomas left the town in late September in a kayak, and paddled down the East Coast to Florida before getting on his bicycle and riding back to Glenville. Throughout his journey Thomas, along with the Glenville Rotary have been raising money to support veterans service dogs through Thomas’ charity Doggie Paddle for Veterans.

“Everybody can accomplish whatever they want to do, it’s that simple,” Thomas said.

Thomas said recently he did not know the exact amount of money raised, but did say they have received some in-kind donations, such as a dog being donated, or a veterinarian donating their time for veterans who have service dogs. Doggie Paddle for Veterans is still accepting donations at doggiepaddle.org.

Thomas, an Army veteran, has said how much his own service dog Boots, was able to help him. The average cost of a service dog is about $50,000, with training, an amount that is unaffordable for most veterans who need one, he has explained.

Thomas thanked everyone for the parts they played and the donations made, and brought his mother up to the podium to stand next to him.

“This is how it worked when I was a kid,” Thomas said. “Anytime you thought things were too hard for you, or you wanted to quit, or thought ‘Oh, I can’t finish it,’ you got the lesson, my ears were not this big originally. When you weren’t sure you were going to be able to accomplish something, you got escorted to the mirror by your ear and you had to convince her that you weren’t going to quit, and you had to repeat over and over again that ‘Thomases aren’t quitters.’”

Thomas shared with the crowd gathered inside the museum that he had to stop his bike earlier Saturday as his eyes were frozen in the freezing temperatures.

“Thank somebody, change somebody’s life, and I hope it’ll be a veteran’s, that would be nice,” Thomas said.

Organizing everything between Thomas and the Glenville Rotary began less than a year ago, Assistant Governor of Rotary Beth Kissinger explained.

Throughout the 4,000 mile journey, Thomas dealt with a number of obstacles, Kissinger said, including two hurricanes — one of which resulted in a call from the Coast Guard saying he needed to get out of the Hudson River, Kissinger explained — and a near-miss with a ferry in Delaware,

“There was sharks, there were manatees,” Kissinger said. “There were waves, there was wind, and there was record breaking cold, but the one thing that never stopped was Jimmy.”

Thomas said previously he had never kayaked before last spring.

This has been the largest Rotary project in the area, said Glenville Rotary member and Doggie Paddle committee member Brittany DeMarco Furman.

“Crazy is what it takes sometimes to create a movement,” Furman said.

For many veterans, when they come home they are fighting other battles, DeMarco Furman said.

“The invisible wounds of war and the weight of being a soldier can cause symptoms in our nation’s protectors,” DeMarco Furman said. “These symptoms can cause depression, social isolation and far too often suicide.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County, Scotia Glenville

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