‘Total disbelief’

‘Total disbelief’

Veteran from the Cape wins boat raffle

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze May 29, 2015 issue

Frank DePace

Veteran Frank DePace won the 2015 Wounded Warrior Anglers boat raffle. 

A charitable drawing likely sent a Cape Coral resident reeling as his name was drawn from 4,000 raffle tickets at the Olde Fish House Marina Saturday, making him the winner of the 2015 Wounded Warrior Anglers boat raffle.

The reality of his win hit home Wednesday morning as he signed the papers for his very first boat at Fort Myers Marina.

“Every day I’m coming back down to earth,” Frank DePace said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

He won a 2015 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 150 horsepower four stroke and magic tilt trailer.

Fort Myers Marine General Manager Colinda Helveston sits with Cape Coral resident and veteran Frank DePace on his brand new boat. Also pictured: Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and President Dave Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and Vice President Judy Souders and Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and Treasurer Tate Hutchinson.

Fort Myers Marine General Manager Colinda Helveston sits with Cape Coral resident and veteran Frank DePace in his brand new boat. Also pictured: Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and President Dave Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and Vice President Judy Souders and Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and Treasurer Tate Hutchinson.

Tate Hutchinson, Wounded Warrior Anglers co-founder and treasurer, said he could not think of a better person to have won the boat. He said he thinks a lot of people were in tears the night the name was drawn for the boat raffle.

“It was awesome to see a fellow soldier that was there to win it . . . it was pretty awesome and fantastic,” Hutchinson said.

DePace joined the Army in 1966 and served until 1981. He said since he was going to be drafted anyway, he elected to be enlisted giving him the choice of which branch of military to join.

“It was an experience of a lifetime. One that I will never forget,” DePace said.

He and his wife, Marsha, moved to Cape Coral on May 1, 2014 from Connecticut. He heard about the Wounded Warrior Angler organization after meeting President Dave Souders and Capt. Jim Conant at Pineland Marina

“They invited me to come to attend one of their meetings. I did and have been there ever since,” DePace said, who is now a member of the organization. “Being a veteran myself – I fought in Vietnam – it’s an organization that there is a lot of camaraderie and a lot of the individuals know how you feel and we care about each other. It’s a great organization.”

As a way to contribute to the organization, he purchased six boat raffle tickets never thinking he was going to win. When his name was called Saturday evening during the 3rd annual Redfish Shootout in memory of Spec. Michael Plath, he was in “total disbelief.”

Hutchinson, who takes his 10-day yearly vacation around the tournament’s schedule, said the boat raffle is the center point of the organization’s fundraising efforts throughout the year. He said the proceeds from the boat raffle allow the organization to hold the Warrior and Caregiver Retreats, as well as helps pay for a boat to raffle off the following year.

In addition, Hutchinson said the boat is also “wrapped,” portraying the military and all the branches of service, which excites people that were in the military and still are in the military.

DePace said Fort Myers Marine hopes to have his boat ready next Wednesday. He hopes to put the boat in the water that day or Thursday.

Fort Myers Marine General Manager Colinda Helveston sits with Cape Coral resident and veteran Frank DePace on his brand new boat. Also pictured: Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and President Dave Souders and Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and Treasurer Tate Hutchinson.

Fort Myers Marine General Manager Colinda Helveston sits with Cape Coral resident and veteran Frank DePace in his brand new boat. Also pictured: Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and President Dave Souders and Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder and Treasurer Tate Hutchinson.

‘Numb from the generosity’

‘Numb from the generosity’

One Lehigh Acres veteran is still “numb from the generosity” he received from the Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Emergency Fund, earlier this month.

“It’s just awesome,” Allen Sparks, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said. “My heart and soul goes out to you guys. I appreciate it to no end.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Keith Campbell said a few weeks ago Mary Jo Sparks reached out to him when her husband Allen went missing. He said Allen had suffered a stroke when he was found, which left him in the hospital for a few days.

“Mary Jo had reached out to me again saying she was behind on financial bills and didn’t know where to turn to as far as help,” Campbell said, adding that he guided them to a couple of veteran organizations, including Wounded Warrior Anglers.

He presented the Sparks with a $2,500 check on Tuesday, May 5 to help them financially.

Mary Jo Sparks, Allen Sparks and Keith Campbell.

Mary Jo Sparks, Allen Sparks and Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Keith Campbell.

“It feels good as long as we can get them back on the right page and right direction,” Campbell said. “I hope they can maintain it and move forward in the right direction.”

Allen served in the Air Force from 1987 to 1989 before being honorably discharged with a service related injury. The veteran suffers from many health related issues, including amnesia caused by PTSD. Due to his medical condition, Allen is not able to work, which leaves his wife generating the income to pay the bills.

“It’s like a hand of God that came through,” Allen said of the donation. “It was a beautiful thing. Keith being a long time friend and the people of the Wounded Warriors were awesome. They are great people. It’s a major blessing for that to happen. I don’t know what I would do without an organization like that that would step up.”

The donation, he said will help with his recovery, as well as stress that comes with worrying about paying bills.

“We were able to take a step forward and continue on with strong strides,” Allen said.

He said he has been in the area for 22 years working in the towing business, as well as delivering pizza. Over the years he has grown to know the people of the community, often times helping people broken down on the side of the road.

“People say that you are blessed 10 times over. It seems to be coming back around. I appreciate the people of Lee County that are able to reach out like this,” he said.

Allen said he looks forward to helping the organization, just like they helped him.

“All they have to do is pick up the phone and call and I will be there with bells on,” he said, adding that he offers a hearty gratitude to the organization. “I love them to death and I have some good new friends.”

The Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund also helped Cape Coral resident Joe Boccuzzi’s brother John late last month. He said his brother, a disabled veteran who served during the Gulf War era, is looking to relocate from Ohio to Florida for work.

“I didn’t hesitate to ask any questions,” Campbell said. “If it is going to help them get a job and turn things around for them . . . let’s do it.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers provided $250 to the Boccuzzi family to help pay for John’s flight so he could attend the interviews.

“He wants to work somewhere year round,” Joe said.

During the winter months John, who works in a labor union for a commercial road construction crew, is laid off because of the Ohio winters.

“He has been with the same company for years. The winters are hard and he is getting older and wants to be able to work year round instead of seven or eight months a year,” Joe said.

He heard about Wounded Warrior Anglers during a motorcycle run that was benefiting the organization. After a conversation with President and Founder Dave Souders, he decided to become a member because he too is a veteran.

“There’s no looking back,” Joe said. “It’s a great group of people.”

The Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund became a part of the organization on Oct. 14, 2014. The fund was created to provide appropriate relief to eligible veterans or disabled veterans who experience a qualifying event or emergency.

‘It was pretty uplifting’

‘It was pretty uplifting’

A brand new program was introduced to the Wounded Warrior Anglers organization due to networking Chapter 4 – Mahi Strike Group Commandant Chief Buck McTee initiated with the American Tackle Company International.

“I am a resourceful guy,” the active duty Navy gentleman said. “I used the resources out there. Once we got it going, the guys up there, they were on point with everything.”

McTee began the Wounded Warrior Angler chapter in Fort Lauderdale because of a fellow Wounded Warrior Angler Capt. Jim Conant.

“His story is what moved me and I was like, these are the kind of guys I can sign on with and be okay with it and run with it and be excited about it,” McTee said.

He said his goal with the brand new chapter is bringing out the guys that are dealing with PTSD and injuries and get them into something.

His goal is to “pay it forward.”

One way in paying it forward began the Handcrafted Rod Program, which was held in Oviedo, Florida, Friday, April 10, through Sunday, April 12.

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Don Morse with American Tackle Company International Inc. said the three day event began on Friday, April 10 with an introduction and meet and greet, so everyone had the chance to get to know one another. He said some history, as well as some information about building rods, was also shared that Friday.

Since one of their instructors is a chef, he barbecued a “whole heap of chicken” for everyone to enjoy later that night.

“It was a good time,” Morse said.

The following morning around 8 a.m., 13 warriors of Wounded Warrior Anglers attended the workshop. All of the supplies to build the rods were donated for the event.

“It was excellent, well worth the time. It was great,” Army veteran Kevin Crowder said.

Crowder joined the Army in 2008 because he felt it was something he was supposed to do as an able body to serve at least one term. He served until 2012.

“It felt good to serve,” Crowder said, although it was not always enjoyable all the time. “I made a lot of brothers and I miss a lot of them.”

A sense of accomplishment washed over Crowder as he finished building his rod, especially with how tedious some of the work was.

“It was pretty uplifting,” he said about the want to build something.

The instructors helped the warriors build the rods from start to finish from around 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“It is a time involved task,” Morse said. “After you do so many it gets easier.”

Crowder said the instructors told them how to build a rod from ground up. He said he absorbed how to build it rather quickly due to the simplified instruction.

“It is something we can carry on and keep going,” Crowder said.

McTee also built a rod during the workshop for his wife. He said when he feels good enough about his product he will present it to another military member during an event.

On Sunday the warriors applied the epoxy clear coat over the thread to finish off the finished product.

Morse said he saw a lot of smiles that Saturday, which was fantastic. He said he also had the pleasure of seeing a lot of the guys sharing their stories one-on-one during the workshop.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Founder and President David Souders said he was thrilled to see many  of the guys  open up to the instructors.

“We had guys opening up to these guys within a couple of hours in teaching them,” he said. “You don’t ever see that. Their guards were down . . . walls and barriers were coming down. It was a phenomenal event.”

The workshop provided the warriors with a new skill they can continue to use.

Morse said if they want to keep going with it they know how to build or rod, or if they do not, they still have a rod that they can show people they built with their own hands.

“I think they will go forward and build some nice rods and supplement their income,” Morse said.

He said although you do not build custom rods to save money, it can be done inexpensively. An individual can purchase all the parts to build a rod for under $60, which will provide the ability to fish for anything.

“Custom building price is more than you pay in the store,” Morse said, adding that when building a rod “you get a rod that performs better than one made in the factory.”

McTee said he cannot say enough great things about the Handcrafted Rod Program. He said he hopes within the next 12 months they will be able to host a rod building event in Southeast Florida

“All these guys spent their whole adult life working for the military,” McTee said working missions, having a purpose and drive to get things done. “They don’t have that camaraderie and the structure (after serving). “We take them and say, ‘hey here is this fishing rod. I need you to build this, here is some instruction and here are guys that will help you.’ I think it’s great.”

Crowder, who lives south of Jacksonville, goes out fishing every chance he gets. He said he now hopes to buy the equipment to build his own rods.

“(I will) start building a few a week or a few a month and see how it goes when I start off,” he said.

Crowder plans on setting up shop in his brother’s garage, so he can invite guys from his Wounded Warrior Anglers chapter to share the knowledge he now knows of building rods. He said one of the goals of attending the workshop was to soak in all the knowledge and pass it on to other guys.

“I’m glad they picked me to pass it on to the other guys,” he said. “I feel pretty confident with it.”

Crowder said his new skill will bring him and his brother closer because he too wants to start building rods.

Morse said they are already in the planning stages of holding another Handcrafted Rod Program event in Matlacha in either September or October.

“I’m definitely looking forward to helping them out as much as we can and working with them with sponsorships,” he said of the Wounded Warrior Anglers organization.

Morse said brainstorming sessions have already begun on creating decals made with the Wounded Warrior Anglers logo with built in USA by a specific wounded warrior’s name.

“With me being an angler and being in the fishing industry, I love seeing something like this geared to fishing,” he said of Wounded Warrior Anglers, which helps guys putting their lives on the line to protect this country. “It’s all I can think about . . . the next step with them.”

Morse said he looks forward to working with the organization because the relationship he has already made with the guys is spectacular.

“I’m looking forward to keeping the communication open and doing some fishing with them,” he said.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by David and his wife Judy Souders. Its mission is to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”

WWA gearing up for annual tournament

WWA gearing up for annual tournament

Anglers will soon hit the water in Matlacha for the annual Wounded Warrior Anglers fishing tournament to raise funds to further support wounded warriors, caregivers and their children through its various programs.

Wounded Warrior Anglers President and Founder David Souders said their first tournament was held on Veterans Day in 2012. He said the small fundraiser was held to help support the organization.

“The first year we raised about $680 after expenses, which was pretty good,” Souders said of the trashcan slam.

The organization reorganized and decided to hold its only fishing tournament of the year in 2012 with its newly developed original Redfish Poker Fishing Championship themed tournament. Souders said the fishing championship began to encourage families to become involved while leveling the playing field.

The tournament raised approximately $13,000 last yeUS Flag & Redfish - Glowar.

The 3rd annual Redfish Shootout, previously known as the Redfish Poker Fishing Championship, will be held Saturday, May 23. The shootout is being held in memory of Spc. Michael Plath.

The tournament will include two redfish, one trout and multiple Calcutta’s.

It is a $350 entrance fee for a team of three anglers for the boat division with $100 for each additional angler. There is a $50 entrance fee per angler for the kayak division.

“I am expecting we are going to have at least 100 boats,” Souders said.

This year, Wounded Warrior Anglers decided to make the shootout its premier tournament with a larger winning pot.

The boat division prizes include $4,000 for first place; $1,750 for second place and $1,000 for third place. The kayak division includes $350 for first place; $150 for second place and 2016 kayak entry for third place.

“We wanted to be up around the Flat Masters and Backwater (tournaments) in payouts because we want to draw in boats,” Souders said. “It doesn’t matter how many boats we have in, we are still paying the same amount.”

He said the idea is to draw in boats to increase the funds from entry fees that will be dispersed into various programs for the organization.

Other prizes include $1,000 for the heaviest slot redfish for a team, which includes a $100 entry fee; $500 for the heaviest trout for a team, which includes a $50 entry fee; $500 for slot redfish with the most spots for a team, which includes a $50 entry fee; $100 for the heaviest slot redfish for ages 16 and younger and $100 for a slot redfish with the most specs for ages 16 and younger.

There are also categories that veterans can enter to win. Those include $250 for the heaviest slot redfish with a $10 entry fee; $250 for the heaviest trout with a $10 entry fee; $250 for a slot redfish with the most spots with a $10 entry fee and $100 for the heaviest trout for ages 16 and younger.

The organization is also seeking sponsors for the tournament. The sponsor levels include The General, the presenting sponsor, for $5,000; The Colonel, the premier sponsor, for $2,500; the Command Sergeant Major, position sponsor, for $1,500; the Sergeant 1st Class, large t-shirt sponsor, for $1,000; The Sergeant, small t-shirt sponsor, for $500; The Private for $250 and the Patriot for $100.

“We are having very good success with sponsors coming aboard,” Souders said, adding that the sponsorships are covering what the organizations payouts are for hosting the tournament.

For information about becoming a sponsor, call Souders at (239) 257-3410, or email david@woundedwarrioranglers.org.

Souders hopes to raise $40,000 for this year’s tournament.

The annual boat raffle winner will also be announced during the May 23 tournament at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for the 2015 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 150 horsepower four stroke and magic tilt trailer. Raffle tickets are $20 for one or six for $100.

Wounded Warrior Angler’s mission is accomplished through actively mentoring wounded warriors with fishing therapy and camaraderie in a friendly and peaceful environment that allows warriors to heal while being surrounded by other veterans who understand their mental and physical issues. The organization’s mission also includes actively mentoring caregivers with a relaxing day away at a spa while their warriors are fishing.

For more information about the tournament, visit http://www.redfishshootout.com, or visit http://woundedwarrioranglers.org for more information about Wounded Warrior Anglers

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

“Our Christmas comes from our heart”

Organization makes holiday a little brighter for Cape family

Published in Cape Coral Daily Breeze Dec. 18, 2014 issue

A Cape Coral family received a little holiday cheer Wednesday night from the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund to help them through some financial hardships.

“With all of our warriors that are members, board members, volunteers and everybody that donates and makes Wounded Warrior Anglers possible, I want them to know that they are part of helping somebody come through the month of December financially,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders said. “I want them to know they are a part of that. All of us coming together over the last three years have made this possible. Everybody coming together and doing a little here and a little bit there has all added up.”

The Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund became a part of the organization on Oct. 14. The fund was created to provide appropriate relief to eligible veterans or disabled veterans who experience a qualifying event or emergency.

Melissa and Eddie Breese were the first to benefit from the newly established fund on Wednesday, Oct. 22, because of hardship they were experiencing. After the donation was made, a community member reached out to Wounded Warrior Anglers and donated gas gift cards and food gift cards to further assist the family with their needs.

Since that donation, Eddie’s condition has become worse. Now with only one income, a part-time income, trying to make ends meet to pay the bills and put food on the table, has become extremely difficult.

To help alleviate some of that financial burden the family is experiencing, the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund donated $1,200 to the Breese family again on Wednesday.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Eddie Breese, Gracie, the Breese’s granddaughter, and Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders.

“It shocked me,” Melissa said of the donation amount. “We have good people around us like Judy and all the Anglers.”

The donation will help the Breese family pay for their December monthly bills, as well as put food on the table.

“Without a question, there is an absolute blessing to be in a situation to help people like that,” Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Kevin Purdy said. “It touches you so deeply. You can’t put it into words.”

Eddie, a Fort Myers High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Desert Storm from 1988 to 1992. After returning from the service he started working on roofs, while owning his own business at one time.

Unfortunately on Sept. 11, Eddie took a bad fall, falling 25 feet through a skylight to the concrete. That fall broke his back, mangled his right arm, broke his ribs and gave him severe head trauma.

After Lee Memorial Health System released him after the accident, Melissa took her husband to the VA clinic in Cape Coral. He then was taken to Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

While he was at Bay Pines he spent time going to a speech pathologist, physical therapist and occupational therapist.

Eddie returned home on Friday, Oct. 17, after spending two months in the hospital.

Melissa said since October he has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and began having focal seizures because of the head trauma.

“Some days he may have one or two,” she said Wednesday night. “The day before yesterday he had six.”

Melissa said when he has a seizure it is as if Eddie is staring right through her with no response.

“He looks dead,” she said.

Limited funds have made it hard for Melissa to drive Eddie to Tampa to see the doctor.

With working part-time and being a full-time caregiver, Melissa said they had to send their 1-year-old son, Keygan, to West Virginia to stay with family.

Although the family is struggling, Melissa remains positive.

“At least I have him at the end of the day and God saved him,” she said. “We have him and that’s what is important.”

Melissa said Eddie has always been her best friend.

“It’s always been Eddie and I,” she said, adding that they used to play co-ed softball and volleyball together. “That is what saved his life. If his body was not in the shape he was in, he would have never survived that. He is fighting every day.”

Souders said being able to help the Breese family is what Christmas is all about.

“That is a big part of our Christmas because our Christmas comes from our heart,” she said.

Community members, who would like to continue the spirit of Christmas and help the Breese family, can contact Souders at (423) 620-9104. Any gift donated to the Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund is tax deductible.

Thank you for your service

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This picture was taken on Pine Island at the VFW.

Sunday afternoon I had the privilege of covering the Veterans Musical Tribute in Jonesborough, Tenn. as an assignment for the Herald & Tribune.

The beautiful ceremony kicked off with a video sharing the history of the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of its 200th anniversary. Although I had watched it before, it was interesting to watch yet again.

The ceremony continued with additional videos and music sung by  the Appalachian Express Chorus. After the program concluded, I walked up to one of the singers in the choir and told him he had a beautiful voice. He did a solo number during one of the songs. The appreciation in his eyes and his handshake still has me smiling a few days later.

This tribute was yet another reminder of what our veterans have done for this country, both young and old.

Jonesborough Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Marion Light who organized the annual veterans program started off the program by sharing the statement below with the crowd:

“It is a soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of press. It is the solider, not the poet who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the solider, not the educator who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is graced by a flag to give the protestor the freedom to abuse and burn the flag.”

Although I do not come from a strong military background, I have grown to know a very special veteran who spends countless hours helping other wounded veterans. I met this Marine in 2012 while I was covering an event for veterans on Father’s Day.

Dave has such a special place in my heart. I have nothing but respect for what he has done and what his visions are for the organization he founded, Wounded Warrior Anglers. It is such a beautiful thing to watch and hear his stories of how he is helping his fellow veterans get through some hard times as they struggle with injuries and PTSD. That help is provided in such a therapeutic way, fishing in the beautiful waters of Southwest Florida while creating an everlasting companionship.

Since that afternoon where we shared a picnic table at Olde Fish House talking, he has introduced me to countless other veterans who have left an everlasting imprint on my heart. I can never fathom what these service men and women went through while fighting for our freedom. With that said, it brings nothing but joy to my heart when I am given that opportunity to shake these veterans hands and tell them “thank you.”

I must revisit a memory that still more than a year later has the same effect on me that it did back in April 2013.

The moments I shared with Angel, who served in the Army for 26 ½ years, tugged at my heart. As we sat there, he shared a few stories of when he was deployed, which truly meant a lot to me.

Before I said goodbye, I thanked him. He instantly asked what did I do? I said you served our country and fought for our freedom. The emotion he shared at that moment will be a part of me forever. It still gives me goose bumps as I sit and write about it now. These men and women who join the service do not do it anticipating a thank you from us civilians, but rather because something called them to that job.

The honesty in Angel’s eyes touched me in a way I cannot explain. I told him just know that you are appreciated before I shook his hand once again.

The goosebumps resurfaced as I reread that passage.

So as I sat in the audience taking in the videos, the comments and the songs, my thoughts constantly wandered to Dave and how much being a part of the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers means to me.

Dave, thank you for your service. Thank you for fighting for our freedom. Most of all, thank you for caring enough to make a difference in the lives of so many veterans through your generosity, your vision and your countless hours of dedication to the organization I am proud to be a part of.

There were two videos that I have to share from the program.

One of the video’s was Ronald Regan’s Veterans Day Prayer, the clip is added below.

Although the entire prayer raised the hairs on my arms as I sat with the audience listening to the words spoken, these words below grabbed a hold of me.

“All we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did and memories are transmitted through words. We see these soldiers in our minds as old and wise. We see them something as the founding fathers gray with gray hair. But most of them were boys when they died and they gave up two lives. The one that they were living and the one they would have lived.”

The other video was called “Solider Deck of Cards.” Rather than writing an excerpt  of what was said, please watch the video until the very end.

I love when I am assigned an event that touches me  . . . I loved how the program ended . . . members of each branch of service stood as the room filled with applause.

Happy Veterans Day.

A pure fishing boat

It’s that time of year again . . .  the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers is raffling another boat, which will support America’s disabled veterans.

This year the 2015 NauticStar 2110 Sport, said to be a pure fishing boat, has a price tag of $55,350,000.

There are 4,000 raffle tickets available this year, 1,000  more than previous years.

“We would not be able to do this without it being deeply discounted by manufacturers and key sponsorships to our organization,” WWA President David Souders said of the raffle boat.

Those sponsors include Fort Myers Marine, NauticStar Boats, Magic Tilt Trailers, Infinite Ideas, Olde Fish House Marina, Center Bait & Tackle and Just Right Realty – Mike Carroll.

The NauticStar 21′ boat has a 150 HP Yamaha; a magic tilt tandem axle aluminum with custom aluminum wheel trailer; custom patriotic boat wrap by Infinite Ideas; power pole 8′ Sportsman II Black with Jack Plate Adaptor; trolling motor – Minn-Kota RT70 – 70 pounds thrust 24v; Jack Plate – Atlas 6″ hydraulic and a Fishfinder GPS – Raymarine Dragonfly7 with CHIRP DownVision technology.

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“This fishing machine has been fully equipped and designed by the warriors of Wounded Warrior Anglers to be exactly what you need to fish the inshore and coastal waters of the United States and enjoy your day of fishing,” Souders said.

Raffle tickets are $20 for one or six for $100. They can be purchased at the locations listed below, from the organizations website at www.woundedwarrioranglers.org, or by calling Vice President Judy Souders at (423) 620-9104.

  • Fort Myers Marine, 2137 Fowler St., Fort Myers, FL;
  • Olde Fish House Marina, 4530 Pine Island Rd., NW, Matlacha, FL;
  • Center Bait & Tackle, 10707 Stringfellow Rd., Bokeelia, FL;
  • Rob’s Bait & Tackle, 3714 Del Prado  Blvd., Cape Coral, FL;
  • Pineland Marina, 13921 Waterfront Dr., Bokeelia, FL;
  • Beef O’ Brady’s, 3015 Pine Island Rd. and 2481 Del Prado Blvd. N. both in Cape Coral, FL;
  • Miceli’s Restuarant, 3930 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, FL
  • Bayou Adventure, 27725 Main St., Lacombe, LA

The organization will provide updates of where the boat will be on display during select local events on its website http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org. The boat will also be on display Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ft. Myers Marine.

The winner of the boat raffle does not need to be present to win on Saturday, May 23. They are responsible for the tag, title and registration, delivery and dealer prep and all applicable taxes.


Other specifics of the boat are listed below with the key items in bold:

Construction:

  • Wood Free Construction
  • Limited Lifetime Hull Warranty
  • Self-Bailing Cock Pit with Molded Non Skid
  • Anchor Locker with Anchor
  • RTM Fiberglass Lids
  • Teleflex BayStar Pro Hydraulic Steering
  • Teleflex Extreme Control Cables
  • Molded Anchor Storage with Anchor
  • Insulated Fish Box
  • Front and Rear Baitwell
  • Large Front Dry Storage Box
  • Rod Box

Hardware:

  • Stainless Steel Locks
  • Stainless Steel Rub Rail Insert
  • 6 Rod Holders in the Console
  • Stainless Steel Cleats
  • 2 Gunnel Rod Holders
  • Brass Splashwell Drains

Console:

  • Stainless Steel Grab Rail on Console
  • Drink Holders
  • Windshield
  • Horn with Stainless Steel Grill
  • 2 Rear Jump Seats

Marine Grade Electrical System:

  • Deutsche Electrical Connectors
  • Speedo, Tachometer, Fuel and Volt Gauge
  • Auto Bilge Pump
  • 2 Aerator Pumps 800 GPH
  • Circuit Breaker Protection

Optional Features:

  • Power Pole 8′ Sportsman II Black with Jack Plate Adapter
  • Minn-Kota RT70 – 70lbs Thrust 24v Hand Control
  • Atlas 6” Jack Plate, Hydraulic
  • Raymarine Dragonfly7 w/ CHIRP DownVision technology
  • Deluxe Leaning Post with Made on Backrest w Performance Cooler
  • Dual Pro Charger PRO2
  • Dual Battery Switch
  • (2) Additional Gunnel Rod Holders with Caps
  • Magic Tilt Tandem Axle Aluminum Trailer
  • Custom Aluminum Wheels

The first boat raffle was an 18-foot NauticStar, 1810 Nautic Bay boat. Last year’s winner of the boat raffle received a 21-foot NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay.

The proceeds from the raffle ticket sales will help the organization continue its mission to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”

The organization helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing. This outing helps promote a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at the spa.

“Changing Lives One Warrior at a Time!”

‘She is an angel’

Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund changed the lives of a couple and their one-year old son, Keygan, Wednesday, Oct. 22, when the organization donated $1,200 to Melissa and Eddie Breese.

Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Judy Souders, Keith Campbell and Eddie Breese.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Acts of Kindness Committee Member Kevin Purdy, Melissa Breese, Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Member Keith Campbell and Eddie Breese.

“I didn’t even see the amount on the check until after they left,” Melissa said the following day. “Eddie looked at it and I seen tears in his eyes as they were walking out the door. He handed me the check . . . what can I say . . . it was amazing.”

Although the family recently lost their home, among other things, Melissa said people like the Wounded Warrior Anglers really came through for them, helping them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Wounded Warrior Anglers just paid our first month’s rent,” Melissa said, adding that the donation also helped with putting down a deposit for their electric.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders and Wounded Warrior Anglers Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund Committee Members Kevin Purdy and Keith Campbell presented the family with the check donation.

“This avenue for Wounded Warrior Anglers can be powerful for our community and the outreach we can do,” Souders said.

Melissa said they are beyond thankful.

“She is an angel,” she said of Souders.

“I thank God for all the help and all the good hearted people that have really come through for us,” Melissa said. “I don’t even know how to begin to tell you . . . there are so many wonderful people.”

The Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund became a part of the organization on Oct. 14. The fund was created to provide appropriate relief to eligible veterans or disabled veterans who experience a qualifying event or emergency.

“I think it is a fabulous thing that Wounded Warrior Anglers is doing,” Purdy said. “I feel very blessed to be a part of it.”

The Breese family was the first to benefit from the newly established fund because of a recent hardship they are experiencing.

Eddie, a Fort Myers High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Desert Storm from 1988 to 1992. After returning from the service he started working on roofs, while owning his own business at one time.

“We have always been the ones to help others,” Melissa said.

Often times, she said her husband would repair roofs for free for other veterans.

Unfortunately on Sept. 11, Eddie took a bad fall, falling 25-feet through a sky light to the concrete. That fall broke his back, mangled his right arm, broke his ribs and gave him severe head trauma.

“There is no rational explanation why he is alive,” Melissa said.

The only explanation is this man is a true Marine having nothing but muscle before he fell.

“That was probably what saved his life,” she said. “That he was in good shape at the time of the accident.”

Although the past few months have been extremely trying, Melissa said she is thankful.

“We have such a long road ahead of us,” she said. “At the end of the day I am so blessed because I have my husband and Keygan still has a dad.”

After Lee Memorial Health System let him go because of insurance purposes after the accident, Melissa took her husband to the VA clinic in Cape Coral. Once the ER doctor looked at Eddie, he immediately called an ambulance and rushed him to Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

While he was at Bay Pines he spent time going to a speech pathologist, physical therapist and occupation therapist.

Eddie returned home on Friday, Oct. 17, after spending two months in the hospital.

“They absolutely love him up there,” Melissa said. “They were so good to him. I knew he was in the absolute best care. They treated him like gold. He had such good doctors. They were just awesome.”

Because his case is so complex, Eddie has to travel to Bay Pines to continue the therapy two days a week, which completely wears him out.

The trip wears him out because since the accident, Eddie suffers from extreme vertigo, causing his head to spin constantly. He has also experienced a lot of weakness in his right arm.

“Head trauma is the worst,” Melissa said. “Normal every day thinking is a multi-choir for him. He has severe memory loss.”

WWA Acts of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund

Behind the scenes:

Purdy became a member of Wounded Warrior Anglers when the organization first began because it is an organization that he really believes in without question.

“I met them at Miceli’s two years ago,” he said of the founders Judy and Dave Souders. “They were selling tickets for the original raffle boat. I was very impressed with Dave and Judy with their vision and commitment.”

Purdy served in the U.S. Calvary from 1973 to 1976 before his knee was destroyed during a training exercise in Germany in 1976.

Campbell, a founder of another nonprofit organization in Southwest Florida, spent his time focusing on fundraising, paying tribute to veterans and helping them in their time of need. After the founders of Wounded Warrior Anglers asked him if he would like to be a committee member for the Act of Kindness Emergency Relief Fund he was on board.

Campbell said he was excited after meeting the Souders because they gave him another avenue in which he could help veterans. That avenue being PTSD.

“It always feels good to help out veterans,” Campbell said. “I enjoy doing it. I don’t do it for recognition. I come from a long line of veterans in my family. It has always been in the blood.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by Dave and his wife Judy Souders. Its mission is to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”

The organization helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing. This outing helps promote a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at the spa.

http://woundedwarrioranglers.org/

To read past blogs about Wounded Warrior Anglers visit: https://meghan80.wordpress.com/wounded-warrior-anglers-of-america-inc/

‘Tee Up for Heroes’ to benefit WWA

A fundraiser for Wounded Warrior Anglers will be held on Monday, Nov. 10, at Pelican’s Nest Golf Club, at Pelican Landings in Bonita Springs.

battle of matlachaKathy Swift, who is putting together the event, said the golf tournament, “Tee Up for Heroes,” is completely filled as of Monday, Oct. 20. She said they have 30 foursome teams participating.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Vice President Judy Souders said they have 10 veterans golfing in the tournament, as well as six veterans volunteering the day of the event.

“We are literally maxed out. For the first one here we are doing fine,” Swift said. “Hopefully next year, since this is the first time, we will be able to use both courses.”

The inaugural “Tee Up for Heroes” golf tournament begins at 12:30 p.m.

It will include MREs, meals ready to eat, for the golfers, to keep with the theme of the day, honoring veterans.

“A lot of these guys when they are out in battle they carry these MREs because they can be gone for a few days,” Swift explained. “So they open these packets up and that’s their meal.”

On the day of the tournament, the golfers will receive their very own MREs, or a boxed lunch, of a chicken wrap, fruit, cookies and a drink.

Instead of having the normal flag at each hole on the golf course, kids will be standing at each hole with an American flag.

The dinner, which will begin around 5 p.m., will include hors d’oeuvre, the main course, a drink, entertainment and a silent auction.

Tickets are $60 per person and can be purchased at http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org, or by calling Swift at (239) 948-8478.

Swift said she has room for approximately 50 more people.

Former private musician of President Eisenhower, John Felice, will provide the entertainment during dinner. Felice, who performed in the Navy band is 83 years old.

“Boy can he play,” she said.

The Pelican Landing Singers will also perform patriotic songs, as well as songs for each branch of the military.

The silent auction will include such items as paintings, golf certificates, a cruise, a three-day trip to the Kentucky Derby with all expenses paid, baskets of wine, and two dinners for six people at two different homes.

All of the proceeds from the tournament and dinner will be donated to Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“Wounded Warrior Anglers is very honored and fortunate to have that committee from Pelicans Nest Golf community to represent us and honor our veterans,” Souders said. “In turn Wounded Warrior Anglers can honor more wounded warriors through our organization.”

Although this is the fourth tournament Swift has held for wounded warriors, this is the first one she is hosting in honor of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“Keith Campbell told me about Wounded Warrior Anglers,” she said.

Swift said she got started with the fundraisers because of her son Michael who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“(When) I got started, my son was a wounded warrior, but at the time I did not know it,” Swift said. “All these guys need our support.”

After hearing about her son having traumatic brain injury, it inspired her to keep going, so she can continue to help wounded warriors.

Over the years, through National Coalition for Patriots, she has helped raise money for Corey Kent, a Cape Coral resident who stepped on an IED while deployed in Afghanistan.

“He was at Walter Reed for almost three years,” she said.

She also helped raise funds for wounded warrior Josh Harwig, who her son Michael knows. With the help of the community, they raised enough for a $62,000 Toyota Tundra in three and a half weeks to help with transportation because his wife was having a baby.

Dave and Judy Souders, founders of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Dave and Judy Souders, founders of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by Dave and his wife Judy Souders. Its mission is to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”

The organization helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing. This outing helps promote a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at the spa.

“That event itself was life changing”

The life of one medically retired United States Marine changed forever after coming into contact with the nonprofit organization Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc.

“I believe it’s an outstanding organization that is perfect right now for the pulse of America and the veteran community,” Peter Paskewicz, a Cape Coral, Florida resident, said. “It’s a little niche not found out there.”

Approximately six months ago, Paskewicz paid a visit to his local bait store, which resulted in an invitation to talk to the organization after asking about other veterans in the area that enjoyed fishing. He said he happened to be in the store when Dave Souders, co-founder of the organization, was also there.

“That is basically how I really got connected,” Paskewicz said.

He joined the Marines and served for three years during the first Gulf Wars from 1990 to 1993.

“I was with some very outstanding people and I know that the Marines made a positive influence on my life,” he said. “I wish I could go back. I love it.”

Paskewicz sustained lower extremity injuries, some of which include a lower back injury from a fall and a shattered hip.

He said since he has some physical problems, he wanted to get to know other veterans who liked to fish, a passion he found when he was a youngster.

“I enjoy the environment,” Paskewicz said of why he loves fishing. “I believe we are connected to the water in one way. If the water is healthy, I believe the rest of the environment is healthy.”

Before medically retiring from the service, he said fishing had always been his most private and personal time where he could reflect back on the good in his life, as well as allow all the negative things to fade away.

As a wounded warrior who loves fishing, Wounded Warrior Anglers was a perfect match for this gentleman.

battle of matlachaThe organization helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing, an outing that promotes a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

“I think the Wounded Warrior Anglers provides a platform that is easy for people to meet and greet one another,” Paskewicz said.

He said the commonality and disability portion of the organization really brings everything together, making Wounded Warrior Anglers what it is today.

He said after leaving the service, fishing provided a new kind of therapy.

“It made me feel like I am still capable of doing things, still capable of accomplishing goals,” Paskewicz said. “It gives me a sense of achievement.”

Wounded Warrior Anglers holds a few retreats throughout the year that invites wounded warriors and their caregivers to Matlacha, Florida, for a day of relaxation on the water fishing, or at Spa 33, with others who have gone through similar experiences.

“That was a very important day for me and my family,” Paskewicz said of the retreat he attended about two months ago. “I had been struggling with medications and pain for about six and a half years and not feeling very good about fishing or anything.”

Once this wounded warrior received an invitation to his first retreat, it provided him with the freedom to go out fishing, while knowing he was not alone, knowing he was going to be with other wounded warriors.

“That event itself was life changing for me,” he said. “I have a whole new attitude. It was absolutely what I needed.”

That single day of camaraderie, that one day of sharing a love of fishing with others, has kept positive thoughts flowing through Paskewicz.

“I’m very grateful for the Wounded Warriors and I feel strongly that it is something really needed in our communities today for our veterans and community members as well,” he said. “It brings veterans closer to the community and the community closer to the veterans. I think it is an outstanding platform.”

Paskewicz recently volunteered at the organization’s 2nd annual Redfish Poker Fishing Championship, in memory of Sgt. John R. Pestel, last month. He said he provided a helping hand in the morning to set things up and whatever else was needed to show support.

“I was approached by at least 100 people that day, all thanking me for my service,” he said.

Those words touched this Marine.

“It was an honor,” Paskewicz said. “It made me feel proud and glad I served for people like them. That was a very special day in itself also. The civilians got to interact with the veterans and I think it was great