My buddy Jason is on a committee for AECOM, the firm we work for. It’s called Great Places To Work Committee. The committee is headed by fellow employee Alex Rayfield, and support quarterly charities, in addition to other morale activities for the employees. He and I got together and decided to throw a Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) event together. What transpired was magnificent.Our local chapter of PHWFF here in the Roanoke area has traditionally done trout fishing events. I thought it would be a nice change in pace to have a summertime shindig in the form of a bass fishing tournament. The whole goal here was to give the vets a really great time and try to raise a little money in the process. After many phone calls and many storefront visits, we got a start. The more support we got, the more it drove us to reach out to more.
The week of the event was hectic to say the least. But before we knew it, the Friday dinner was upon us. The venue was Martin’s Bar and Grill in downtown Roanoke. They gave a gracious discount for everyone involved. AECOM employee driven fund raising, along with other individual and company donations, provided the funds for the volunteers to eat. Walkabout Outfitter footed the entire bill for the vets! This was a time for everyone to meet each other, and to honor the veterans for their service and sacrifices they’ve made in their lives for us and our country.
As I said, there was such an amazing selfless response from the locals and even some out of town companies and individuals. We’ll just start with this little gem. A friend of mine, Bo Painter, works closely with companies in the fishing industry. After a request, he easily convinced Eagle Claw to donate some sweet hats, stickers, and beautiful fiberglass rods for each vet! There are some Orvis stuff here too, but the focus on this picture is from my kiddos and some of my nieces and nephews. That right there is a priceless thank you from little hearts. You can’t buy that kind of feeling.
Sportsman’s Warehouse donated an awesome camo bag packed with a t-shirt, baseball cap, water bottle, sticker, chap stick, hand sanitizer, coupons, and license holder for each vet and volunteer! In addition to that, they threw in a $100 and a $50 gift card!
Here is the store manager, Julie Long handing out the gifts.
Orvis graciously donated a drirelease pullover for each vet with the PHWFF logo! On top of that, each vet received a fly box filled with some of their best smallie flies. AECOM paid to have each volunteer receive a pullover as well. You’ll see the pullover in the fishing pics, as well as the fruits of the flies…
WFXR came by to cover the dinner and ran it on their evening news. This was so nice of them to do and helped make more of the local population aware of the organization. Click here for the link.
After going over all the logistical items with the the guides, we relaxed and enjoyed the evening. My good friend Curt came up all the way from Georgia to show his support. Curt is the Regional Coordinator for the Georgia/South Carolina region and is one of the good guys. He stayed at our house and of course we stayed up way too late eating Homestead Creamery black raspberry ice cream and telling stories with Jason. We all paid for it hours later when our alarm clock went off Saturday morning. But it was a good day and we were pumped.
Setup went by and before we knew it we were chugging good ol coffee and stuffing our faces with bagels and croissants thanks to Starbucks. And my do I love me some Starbucks. Here’s Jason setting it all up.
We made sure all the guides had plenty of water, flies, tippet, etc for the vets before heading off. Here’s co-worker Frank Nottingham getting some stuff before heading off with his vet.
And Kathy Mueller brought PHWFF gear for all vets that needed some.
Before getting wet, we wanted to get the pictures out of the way. Nobody want to pose for pictures after fishing all day on a humid summer day in Virginia! Check out those dapper Orvis drirelease pullovers…
At 0800 the fishing began. Now, originally I’d planned to have the spread limited to a mile. This was the wettest summer I could recall. But, as it always seems to, nature had a trick up its sleeve. About 2 weeks before the tournament, the rain stopped. And with that, the water got skinny in some places, shallow in others. So we decided to have the guides hop in their vehicles and drive the vets to their favorite holes within a few miles of the picnic shelter.
Although we tried to get some help from two local golf cart companies, we were stuck without any way to deliver waters or check on the guides and vets along the greenway. But long time volunteer and guide, Scott Barrier, saved us with a nice mountain bike to ride around. AECOM co-worker and Structrural Engineer, Alex Rayfield, handled this task the entire day. Lots and lots of biking.
At lunch time, all the folks came back for a boxed lunch courtesy of the ones and only: Chick-Fil-A. I can’t begin to describe my love for this place; our Friday lunch hangout. Of course, we heard lots of fishing stories during this time. Trying to decipher the embellished ones is always a fun activity.
Here’s Curt. Curt is a real problem. He’s the number one reason we made guides use tape measures for recording the fish. Curt, I hope you’re reading this.
Before setting out, the guides and vets discussed what flies were working and where everyone was going after lunch.
We had a family come and show some support for the second run. The husband was a Marine. I was glad to see them involving their kids with vets, especially disabled ones. This is how you raise compassionate kids. There’s a bond between strangers the armed forces produces. It’s a powerful force.
Lisa brought the kids by to see the vets again. It makes me so proud to see Emma Jo thank other vets, her little hand encompassed by theirs as their hands met. She is so pure and caring at such a young age. And Wyatt doesn’t meet a stranger with his crazy wild personality. I believe we’ve got some headaches ahead of us when he starts school…
Co-worker and friend, Joey Caldwell, grabbed the Chick-Fil-A for us and helped watch Wyatt while Lisa helped and snapped some pics. We helped Joey out with our magical “keep Wyatt still” trick.
After lunch, the teams were sent back out, refreshed and ready to go. Here’s Scott with one of our two blind vets, Butch.
Everyone slowly but consistently picked fish off, hiding under tree canopies every chance they got.
Here is Butch again, followed by Mike. These two blind vets being able to get out on water and actually fly fish is what it’s all about. Instead of settling for other things, they push themselves and have the mentality that they can do the impossible.
Here are some of the highlights courtesy of the guides. We’ll start with Moir.
Then Mike again.
Matthew with a grin somewhere under that beard.
Ken with some hellgrammite love.
One of Marvin’s.
This cool shot is of Caleb.
When it was all said and done, we tallied up the scores. We would be giving 5 awards out. Everyone was patiently waiting as Jason tallied the scores. We were fortunate enough to have WFXR come by again and get more footage. The link is here.
The $100 Sportsman’s Warehouse gift card was for the most fish. Kyle took this one away.
Next was a $50 Sportsman’s Warehouse gift card for the second most fish. Clint was the winner on this one.
The next category was most different species. Again, Clint took the prize. This time it was something special. B.S. Calls is a woodworking company that makes simple beautiful wooden pens and waterfowl calls. They selflessly donated a very special pen that was well-received to say the least. Everyone stopped by to get a closer look and appreciate the intricate details.
The last category was the largest fish. Taking second place was Matthew. The prize was a gift card from our friends at Roanoke Mountain Adventures.
And the largest fish award was a very special guided trip from my very good friend Harold Harsh of Spring Creek Outfitters. He donated a 2 person guided trip on the North Branch of the Potomac River. I’ve been on this water with him, and I can attest to the awesome time ahead for Mike.
After some last minute collections, we wrapped things up with two check presentations to PHWFF long time volunteer Bob Crawshaw.
One from a collection on companies and individuals for $1,307! The other, a check AECOM cut, for $2,000! To be able to give these vets a great tournament, and all the gifts and awards, and still come out with a $3,307 donation to the local chapter far surpassed our expectations when this was nothing but a brainstorm.
Even ol Wyatt Levi was shocked at the totals.
Thanks to all the vets for their sacrifices and for allowing us to show our gratitude in a small way. They are: Mike Doyle, Ken Misko, Mike Rindorf, Mitch Hampton, Clint Cash, Butch Lawrence, Marvin Lawrence, Moir Edwards, Kyle Chanitz, Caleb Love, Robert Misiaszek, and Matthew Merryfield.
The guides busted their butts to give the vets the ammunition and help they needed. They are: Frank Nottingham, John Cahoon, Bill Bainter, Scott Barrier, James Christian, Greg Grimes, Kathy Mueller, Bill Campbell, Curt Boatman, Mckeever Henley, Mike Whitlow, and David Holliday.
I want to thank all the individuals and companies that made this possible. Without your support, this would not have been the success these pictures attempt to show. Thanks to: AECOM, Martin’s Downtown Bar & Grill, Orvis, Cambria Suites, Skydive Orange, Roanoke Mountain Adventures, Dead Drift Outfitters, Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Walkabout Outfitter, Spring Creek Outfitters, ALCOVA Mortgage, Vivian and Garland Rowsey, Gale and Regina Mabe, Year Round Landscaping, Woods Rogers PLC, Eagle Claw, employees at KPMG LLP, BS Calls, Linda Moody, Joey Caldwell, Jason Slaughter, Alex Rayfield, Megan Stull, Ann Shotwell, Liz Fields, and various other AECOM employees and others. We were grinning just as wide as the vets. God gave us a good day.