The Navy Diver Foundation was originally established to honor Navy divers who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. In tribute to their memory it provides educational scholarships to college-age children and grandchildren of Navy Divers.
The 501(c)3 educational foundation was founded by veteran Chris Span, who retired from the Navy in March of 2017 after a 34-year career as a diver and officer.
As a partner in celebrating Zeagle’s 40th Anniversary, we gave Chris a call to learn more about the history of the Navy Diver Foundation and also to discuss his ongoing work benefitting youths into the future.
Hey Chris, why did you start the Navy Diver Foundation?
There were two young guys in a terrible accident. I think it was 2013. They were training and two divers got killed. After it happened, I just wanted to do something. I was getting ready to retire in a few years and wanted to do something to remember them. So that was the impetus for starting it.
We started the foundation to honor those guys and also all of the Navy divers that have been lost in the line of duty over the past 30-something years.
Since the NDF’s founding, what’s been the impact? How do the scholarships work?
We’ve given out about $60,000 in scholarships to kids within that community. For each scholarship, we’ll give out anywhere from $500 to as high as $2,500. [Aspiring students] submit their application, which they do on our website. They have to write a couple essays. Prove that they are Navy diver children.
Most of the time our applicants are kids that are graduating from high school and are applying to college. It’s a selection process based on the strength of the candidate and how many applicants we have. I don’t think we’ve not ever given somebody at least some sort of help, but the stronger candidates get higher denominations.
Last year we gave everyone $2K scholarships, so, we had a really good year last year.
Do you only give scholarships to kids going into military service?
Nope, we don’t push ‘em in any direction, except for academics and school.
They can go into any field they want—even a technical school. We’ll help them with any educational endeavor.
What’s your history with Zeagle?
I was stationed in Guam when Zeagle first came out with a normal buoyancy compensator. I mean, we used to wear horse collars. I remember ordering two [Rangers] for the command as a test. My CO was dead against it. We were staying with the old-fashioned way and so I ordered two and I don’t even remember how I got it through the supply, but I got it approved—somehow.
I invited my CO and XO out for a training dive and I put ‘em in that Zeagle Ranger, put ‘em in the water—they didn’t know what was going on—but after that, they said it was the most comfortable Navy dive they’d ever made. I remember that comment specifically.
After that, we outfitted the whole command and got rid of those darn horse collars. Those old-school guys don’t want something new, so you kinda have to trick ‘em. But I knew that once they put on a Ranger—that would be it, because they’re so comfortable.
What’s the most satisfying thing about your work with the Foundation?
I love honoring the guys that gave it all. We’re honoring them and educating the kids at the same time. Helping families with their finances, as well. It keeps me busy, especially when we’re reviewing applications and all.
Every year I think it’s gonna be the last year. But right at the ninth hour somebody will come through with a good donation and we can give more scholarships. And that’s kinda where I’m at this year. Force Blue contacted me about Zeagle’s 40th Anniversary partnerships and about this event that y’all are doing and it seemed like a great opportunity. A nice fundraiser will help us out, so we can do another year—and give out more scholarships.