On waterways across the country, warriors hardened from service and sacrifice, are feeling peace, joy and connection—often for the first time in a long time.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) provides basic fly fishing, fly casting, fly tying and rod building classes to both Veterans who have never fly fished before, and seasoned anglers. Fishing trips, both one day and multi-day, are provided free of charge to participants; including all fly fishing and tying equipment.
PHWFF is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of injured and disabled Veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings. But, PHWFF transcends fly fishing. The organization builds relationships and fosters communities for Veterans and outdoor enthusiasts.
Using a nationwide network of over 200 programs, PHWFF programs meet regularly throughout the year with volunteers, teaching the basics and advanced techniques while building long-term relationships. The program is much more than a one-time fishing trip. The camaraderie and community developed during regular year-round classes are just as meaningful as the outings.
“Project Healing Waters has allowed me to enjoy life, to give back and get back to mainstream Veteran support activities at a level I’ve never experienced before. It’s been a tremendous experience as well as a relief that I can identify with. I’ve never had something in my life that has been so relaxing and meaningful.” – Donald ‘Doc’ Ballard, U.S. Navy/Army (ret.) | Vietnam, Medal of Honor Recipient
Over 116 VA healthcare facilities host Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing programs, allowing PHWFF to bring their unique form of therapy to an ever-expanding number of Veterans. At these locations, PHWFF volunteers are VA volunteers. They provide fly fishing, fly tying, and rod building programs and a caring community for the Veteran patients.
“Project Healing Waters is more than a fishing program,” said Marilyn Radatz, Salem VA Medical Center’s Supervisory Recreational Therapist. “The connections that our Veterans establish make a tremendous impact on their lives and within their communities. The time they spend learning to tie flies, as well as the sport of fly fishing, bring an ideal therapeutic value to each of their lives. It is a joy to watch our Veterans build upon relationships with their fellow Veterans and guides as they venture into a safe, relaxing and meaningful leisure experience.”
Over 8,300 Veterans are currently participating in PHWFF programs throughout the United States supported by over 4,000 volunteers. Many participants have found the program so transformative that they have become volunteer leaders striving to serve their fellow Veterans through PHWFF. Over 20% of PHWFF volunteers are former participants in the program.
“My life now has something in it I can obsess over and be passionate about that is healthy. My life revolves around fly tying and fly fishing. I have attended many PHWFF trips and events. I am now giving back. I now guide my fellow Veterans as a volunteer. Being able to feel that fellowship again is wonderful. I no longer hate myself; for the first time in a long time, my life revolves around wanting to live free and healthy.” – Kyle Chantiz, U.S. Army (ret.)
PHWFF is a nonprofit organization founded by Ed Nicholson, a retired Navy captain, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2005 to bring community, camaraderie, and a unique form of therapy to those who have honorably served and sacrificed for our Nation. Since that time, the PHWFF program has expanded Nationwide, establishing its highly successful program in Department of Defense hospitals, Warrior Transition Units, and VA Medical Centers.
To join the PHWFF program in creating a strong, supportive community connected through shared experiences, camaraderie, and challenges of the rod, reel, and line, visit the PHWFF homepage or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“Project Healing Waters has given me the opportunity to interact with other Veterans and patriots. Through the art of fly tying, fishing and rod building I have made connections and friendships with people that I never would have met otherwise. These interactions and relationships have taught me to see the similarities in my fellow man instead of focusing only on our differences.” – Gary Herber, U.S. Army (ret.) | Afghanistan
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