I have always considered fishing to be therapeutic in nature. It always seemed to sooth my soul and relieve the everyday tensions of life. Now, after a recent experience with Wounded Warrior Outdoors, I have learned that the therapeutic element of fishing goes way beyond my simplistic notion of everyday tensions.
The fishing days began early with a home cooked breakfast. Day one left from the docks behind the house. Local Florida Guides Associaiton members Chris Myers, Tom Van Horn, Michael Ortego and Ron Presley pulled up to the dock, enjoyed the hot breakfast, and loaded the servicemen for a days fishing adventure.
Each day there was a contest created to add a little competition to the days fishing. On the first day the boat that caught the most redfish, trout and flounder would earn bragging rights. That first day also included lunch on a klinker island. Volunteers loaded tables, chairs, food and drink on a couple of boats and set up a fabulous meal on an island near Edgewater.
Day two targeted large redfish and the whole crew met up at Haulover Canal some 30 miles away from the host residence. Logistics is no problem for this group, they go where they want to and there were no complaints from the participants about the travel, or anything else for that matter. The competition would be simple for day two. The boat with the largest redfish would win. It was a tough fishing day with windy conditions but a few reds were caught and a nice 30 inch redfish made one serviceman/angler very happy.
Day three was scheduled as a half-day affair which extended far into the afternoon because these anglers just did not want to quit. The only restriction became the 4:00 hour when a barbeque dinner and awards ceremony was scheduled. The final day’s competition was based on which boat could catch the largest variety of fish. The winning boat tallied eleven different species of fish.
During the BBQ, as the event wound down, some of the participants shared their thoughts on their visit to Florida. Almost all of their responses began with two words – Thank You! Phrases like “amazing trip,” “great adventure,” “God send,” “memories I will never forget,” and “this was the best fishing trip of my life,” were typical.
These young heroes are all on active duty and assigned to the Balboa Medical Center. They each made application for the trip and through a selection process were chosen by their doctors and therapists. Those selected for the trip were the ones expected to gain the most therapeutic value for both the psychological and physical injuries.
The mission and benefits of Wounded Warrior Outdoors does not clearly come through until you experience it for yourself. It is simply amazing, the progress these young troops make in just a few short days and hours. Important functions like balance, endurance, flexibility and mobility improve so rapidly it is almost unbelievable.
“Therapeutic outdoor adventures are our mission,” said Ron Raboud. “The average length day on one of our trips is the therapeutic equivalent to over a week in the hospital,” he explained. “That is why the guys make so much progress in a short period of time. Mike, a double amputee, is a prime example. He was very cautious when he arrived, but by the time he left he was climbing a ladder up the boat dock out of a very unsteady boat, at low tide! Pretty amazing!”
It is also pretty amazing that WWO accomplished its mission to assist our wounded warriors with no paid staff and every penny donated goes to provide similar trips.
“WWO receives no government support or funding. We are funded completely by private donations and corporate sponsorships,” said Raboud. He went on to say that providing the trips is not the greatest challenge. The real challenge is finding the funding to conduct the trips.
Fishing is not all they do. The 2012 calendar includes the fishing trip that took place last week, a turkey hunt in Kentucky, a spring bear hunt in British Columbia, a wild boar hunt in Florida, a fly fishing trip in Maine, another saltwater fishing trip in Alaska, a second wild boar hunt in California, a fall bear hunt in Canada and an alligator hunt in Florida.
Visit their website at http://www.woundedwarrioroutdoors.com for more information on this incredible organization. Wounded Warrior Outdoors is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. All donations are tax deductible.
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Angler Alert: Don’t forget to log you catch online at the Angler Action Program.