Jersey Shore fundraiser provides scuba training for disabled veterans
BRICK — A little over 10 years ago, New Jersey businessman Nick Arcuri was visiting a friend in Puerto Rico when he noticed a group of disabled veterans together at a table in a restaurant. Quickly, his desire to help these vets morphed into what is now an annual fundraiser that gives them the opportunity to rehabilitate through scuba diving.
"Arcuri for SUDS" (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled SCUBA) returns for its eighth year on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 365 Cedarcroft Drive in Brick. It is a true community event with Arcuri and his neighbors hosting an expected crowd of 300 people in their backyards.
All money donated day-of goes to SUDS, with the group of neighbors covering all expenses out of pocket. The beneficiaries are disabled veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, connected through Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, and last year they received $100,000 from Arcuri's team.
"The soldiers are there, we'll have probably a dozen guys, vets, and we get to introduce them, and they get to see all the people that come out for them, and all the people get to see and talk with them one-on-one," Arcuri said.
SUDS aims to better the lives of disabled vets by teaching them how to scuba dive, and bonding them through a common activity. Some locales the soldiers have explored include the Carolinas, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The program has produced some 400 to 450 certified divers, according to Arcuri, and some have even become instructors.
For Arcuri, it is also a chance to recognize and remember the sacrifices these men and women made, so that they are not forgotten like so many veterans of the Vietnam War.
"It's just a fun day, it's an enjoyable day," he said. "You get to really meet these guys, you see firsthand, one-on-one, you speak with them and you get to see how they turned their lives around because of SUDS."
Arcuri for SUDS will have food, raffles, a live band, bagpipers, and rides offered on speedboats down the Metedeconk River. For more information on SUDS, visit sudsdiving.org.