Rickard Jensen Named “Veteran of the Year” by Manatee County Veterans Council

Bradenton, Florida –   Congratulations to Rickard Jensen on being voted “Manatee County’s Veteran of the Year”, by the Manatee County Veterans Council.  This is a well-deserved honor in recognition of Rick’s efforts in the community and at Nathan Benderson Park’s Veterans dragon boating program.

Dragon boat practice starts at 4:30pm for most paddlers – but not for Rick Jensen!

A born leader and team player, Rick arrives at Nathan Benderson Park at least two hours prior to every practice to ready the dragon boats and setup all the equipment for his team, to lessen the burden on all other paddlers.  An “Army of One”, Rick, a permanently disabled Veteran, never allows physical limitations to keep him from helping others or hinder him from doing what he loves.  Rick, a Holmes Beach resident, served in Vietnam and has traveled the world extensively throughout his military career. He first learned about paddling in 2019 when a friend told him about dragon boating at Nathan Benderson Park. After trying out a few sessions, Rick was hooked.  He found dragon boating to be a positive physical activity and great way to connect with other veterans to support their mental well-being.  “Whether or not they have experienced combat, we have all been through the same struggles in different ways,” shared Rick.

Thanks to Rick’s efforts and passion, the Veterans Dragon boating program and team at Nathan Benderson Park has grown from just 5 people to over 27 co-ed members and continues to evolve. The team practices 3 times a week and travels throughout the state to participate in dragon boating competitions. In addition to growing the current team, Rick is exploring starting a para dragon boating team, comprised of disabled and able-bodied veterans, to ensure that no one is precluded from participating in this sport of legends.

When asked what the number one factor is that propels Rick to push his limits every day and give so much to dragon boating– is it for physical health, mental support or for the comradery, Rick’s eyes lit up and he stated sincerely with a big smile, “I don’t call it comradery. I call it FAMILY.”


Practices take place at Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle in Sarasota, on Mondays at 6pm, Wednesdays at 4:30pm, and Saturdays at 9am year-round.

Interesting in learning more about dragon boating? Join us for our Veterans New Member Paddle Day on December 2, 9:30-11:30am. No experience or equipment is required.


About the Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy
The Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 business created to manage Nathan Benderson Park, a community/public asset and world-class, multi-use sports venue. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for our community and be an economic generator for our region. The Conservancy’s primary purpose is to develop and promote the park as a world-class event center, team training site and Sarasota County Park, while providing outreach programs through recreation, safety training, education and volunteering as a service to our community. See more at nathanbendersonpark.org.

About Dragon Boating

Dragon boat racing began in China more than 2,000 years ago and has evolved into one of the fastest growing and unique sports in the world. Teams compete in Dragon Boats, which are large canoe-like vessels, adorned with carved dragon’s heads and tails. Unlike other competitive sports, the success and victory is solely dependent on the team’s collective precision.


aerial shot of Nathan Benderson Park