The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 15 No. 3 - November 12, 2014

reel time

Project Healing Waters aids vets

Reel time

rusty chinnis | sun

Volunteers and participants line up at the Bradenton Yacht Club
for a group shot.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc (PHWFF) is a nonprofit organization that started at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., in 2005. The name PHWFF was established in the fall of 2006, and the organization was incorporated in the state of Maryland in 2007. PHWFF is currently represented with 173 programs in 49 states.

Programs are managed locally by volunteers and were originally based at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility. The program has now expanded to locations in over 15 geographic regions throughout the United States. PHWFF also has affiliate programs in Puerto Rico, Canada and Australia.

PHWFF is run by a volunteer organization and governed by a board of trustees and elected officers who provide operational and budget oversight, are responsible for the strategic plan and create policy. Full-time employees and one part-time employee support the administrative and program functions at the national level.

The volunteers at the local and regional levels work with the national staff to administer programs, assist with fund raising, coordinate operations and plans and manage special projects. PHWFF refer to the local affiliates as programs, not chapters or clubs, and is not a membership organization.

PHWFF relies on the generosity of both private and corporate donors and solicits foundation grants, but does not receive government funding. PHWFF programs are associated with and draw volunteers from Federation of Fly Fishers clubs, Trout Unlimited chapters and other independent clubs (46 independent groups).

Program leaders from PHWFF coordinate with Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense employees to plan and administer the fly fishing program. Some programs are run jointly by both Federation of Fly Fishers and Trout Unlimited clubs.

On Saturday Nov. 7, I took part in a PHWFF event in conjunction with HOW (Heroes On The Water) at the Bradenton Yacht Club. HOW also serves our nation’s warriors by providing healing and rehabilitating kayak fishing outings that are physically and mentally therapeutic through a nationwide community of volunteers and donors. The event was hosted by volunteer Ted Hass and supported by the yacht club and its Commodore Mike Reeves.

In the morning, participants were treated to coffee and donuts, had a meet and greet and worked with local volunteer guides and volunteers from Federation of Fly Fishing Clubs in Sarasota, St. Pete and Tampa on fly casting skills in the club’s parking lot and pool. After matching with guides participants loaded onto boats with the guides for a morning of fishing.

I was graciously taken around the Manatee River, Tampa Bay and Terra Ceia Bay by Jeanne Reeves and a good friend, Lucinda McCarthy, to take pictures of the participants fishing. Although we weren’t able to capture anyone in the act of catching, we did find a number of very happy participants with stories of fish that were caught during what turned out to be a beautiful morning.

Participants returned to the yacht club in the early afternoon for a fabulous buffet spread on tables on the pool deck. The chef and staff did a wonderful job of preparing fresh sandwich makings, prime rib and a delicious desert of peach cobbler and whipped cream.

After lunch there were fly tying and rod building exhibitions in the dining room making for a wonderful ending to a great day for both volunteers and veterans.

Look for a local chapter of the organization to be formed in the Bradenton area soon and visit www.projecthealingwaters.org/ and www.heroesonthewater.org/ to learn more about both organizations and how you can help their cause.