By MADISON PHARIS
Four Points News
The 4th annual Kristin McLain’s Get Out Girl Paddle Jam will be held Sunday, Sept. 24 at the Steiner Ranch Lake Club where an estimated 100 women will paddle and raise funds and awareness for first responders.
The Get Out Girl Paddle Jam benefits Foundation 1023, a nonprofit organization created in honor of Kristin McLain, a Travis County STAR Flight nurse who was killed in a rescue accident in April 2015 in Austin. Foundation 1023 provides awareness and financial support for the mental and emotional wellness of first responders.
“Contemplating all the efforts our first responders have put into helping our communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and (Irma), we have to ask ourselves how these first responders also deal with personal loss during these disasters,” said Cindy Present, Foundation 1023 co-founder and board member, and founder and director of Kristin McLain’s Get Out Girl Paddle Jam.
This year the Kristin McLain’s Get Out Girl Paddle Jam will be paddling to help Texas first responders find mental and emotional strength.
McLain was instrumental in creating the first Get Out Girl Paddle Jam in 2014, and after her death, the group rededicated the event in her honor.
“(The aftermath of the hurricanes) also made me very reflective upon the life of Kristin McLain – a first responder and friend who always put the health and safety of her community before her own,” said Present, who lives in River Ridge, neighboring Steiner. “The very reason we added her name to Get Out Girl Paddle Jam three years ago – to always remember to honor and respect those who serve us relentlessly in times of need.”
“It’s an amazing day,” said Jennifer Allis, Foundation 1023 ambassador who also lives in River Ridge. She was a former neighbor and friend of McLain. “First responders come and support and paddle with us. It’s so good for them to come spend a morning on the water, and let go of everyday stressors.”
Water and the outdoors were all important to McLain as she, like many other first responders, had to deal with mental and emotional strain that comes with the job. Many of these brave heroes end up dealing with post-traumatic stress, along with having a much higher rate for divorce, substance abuse, and even suicide. These invisible burdens could not keep McLain down though, as she used her love for the outdoors to help keep herself mentally and emotionally healthy.
Named after McLain’s badge number, Foundation 1023 bears the slogan “Putting First Responders First”.
Get Out Girl Paddle Jam is an all female fundraiser and a non-competitive, stand up paddleboarding and kayaking event. Women and girls who participate take whatever means they have to paddle towards Jessica Hollis Park at Mansfield Dam, though can finish whenever they like.
Ricky Hollis — husband of Travis County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jessica Hollis who lost her life in September 2014 after she was swept away after checking a low water crossing near Mansfield Dam — also participates in supporting Paddle Jam and supports what it does for first responders. He told Allis, “I wish there was something like this available for us when Jessica died.”
Allis stated that the idea for counseling and mental wellness for the Foundation started in February in 2016, and they were able to obtain nonprofit status that following June.
“In just over a year of being active, we’ve provided more than 600 hours of fully-funded counseling to 120 first responders,” Allis said.
Foundation 1023 has added another event in McLain’s memory, paddling the Highland Lakes of the Colorado River for 60 miles over three days on Lake Travis from Oct. 20 – 22. McLain was from Texas and Colorado, and she had a goal to paddle the Highland Lakes. Like the event on Lake Austin, this too will help raise awareness for PTS.
Sunday’s Paddle Jam will be held at 12300 River Bend 78732 from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Following the paddle, there is an after-party including silent auction, raffle, music, food, and drinks with fellow paddlers, volunteers, family and friends. For more information, go to www.Foundation1023.org.