7th Get Out Girl PaddleJam helps first responders

Photos by Greg Fulks

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News

The 7th Annual Get Out Girl Paddle Jam was a couple weeks ago and raised thousands for mental wellness for first responders. The event also is to honor the legacies of Jessica Hollis, a Travis County Sheriff’s Office senior deputy, and Kristin McLain, a StarFlight nurse, who both lost their lives serving the local community within six months of each other, September 18, 2014, and April 27, 2015 respectively. 

“It was an amazing day — so many unbelievable stories that surfaced and unlocked — you couldn’t have scripted it,” said Cindy Present, event founder and coordinator. “Individuals dealing with stress, illness and loss – unlocking, sharing, resetting and being supported by others.”

Nearly 150 women paddled on Oct. 18 including 30 female first responders.

This year the event featured a “Paddle Pilgrimage” of 5.5 miles to Jessica Hollis Park, launching at River Bend boat ramp. The Austin Police Department Honor Guard was in a Centurion Salute 2 Service Boat and kicked off the event with two minutes of “Blue Mind” immersion, which Present calls “bathing in the silence of nature and the rippling of water.” 

Then the National Anthem was played on a bugle. Some homeowners along the route supported the cause with handouts and support signs from a few boat docks as well. 

“When we lost Kristin and Jessica, this message became extremely powerful and worthy: We need to provide resources to our front line workers for their mind and spirit that are readily available, natural and effective,” Present said.  

Funds raised during the Get Out Girl PaddleJam help provide first responders with experiences, retreats, outings and more that help encourage mental wellness.

Present said they raised over $25,000 so far and will continue raising funds with their virtual auction through Veteran’s Day Nov. 11 through operationgetout.org