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

‘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.

“It was grand”

The 2nd annual Redfish Poker Fishing Championship, in memory of Sgt. John R. Pestel, was a huge success for the nonprofit organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers, this past Memorial Day weekend.

“I think it was grand,” Judy Souders, co-founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers said after the event. “The tournament was 100 percent successful. It raised good money for Wounded Warrior Anglers and that’s why we did the tournament.”

20142ndannual1a-2Dave Souders, also co-founder of the organization, said 23 boats and 11 kayakers participated in the Saturday, May 24, tournament.

Although this year’s tournament included seven more kayakers, the number of boats decreased by six. David said the decrease really did not affect the success of the tournament, due to the interest in the silent and live auctions and 50/50 raffles.

“I think everybody had a great time and really loved the event,” Dave said.

The event kicked off with a captain’s meeting the night before, which he said went pretty smooth without any problems, as the anglers learned all the specifics of the tournament at Beef O’ Brady’s in Cape Coral

The following morning the anglers arrived at their destinations with the  same thought in mind – claiming one of the first place prizes by catching the biggest red and the redfish with the most spots.

The photo and release tournament required the anglers to take a photograph of their catch on an approved measuring board. Those photographs were then brought back to the Olde Fish House Marina for weigh in that Saturday afternoon.

The boat division was won by JBA Construction Jeff Asbury, who claimed $1,000. The first place kayak division winner was Jeff Gabrick who won $500 cash.

The calcutta winner was the Dirt Necks, who claimed $2,000.

Caleb Smith also walked away from the tournament with some additional funds in his pocket. He won $600 for the most spots calcutta and $100 as the 16 and under winner.

Caleb, 10, who goes out fishing pretty much every weekend, said catching the fish was his favorite part of the tournamnet.

“We went to different spots and went red fishing,” the youngster said during the tournament.

Caleb also said it was exciting winning $700.

Throughout the day, five bands donated their time and talent, to bring some music to the event. Not Guilty, Grayson Rodgers, Sticky Revenge, Wild Caught and Bonham528 kept the crowd entertained from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“The bands were incredible,” Judy said.

The second annual boat raffle was also deemed a success, due to the organization selling out of all 3,000 tickets by 12:30 p.m. the day of the tournament.

This year’s boat was a 2014 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 115hp Yamaha four-stroke and trailer.

The lucky ticket holder was announced at 7 p.m. at the Olde Fish House Marina on May 24.  Bill Swartzwelder of Cape Coral, Florida, became the owner of the brand new NauticStar. He said he plans on letting Asbury use the boat to take individuals out on the water.

Next year’s boat raffle, Dave said, may possibly increase to 5,000 tickets, which will provide more individuals with the opportunity to donate to the organization.

The organization is seeking a boat manufacture who would like to donate a boat to the cause, to provide the organization with the opportunity to put more funds into the organization, and therefore help more wounded warriors and their caregivers.

Judy said overall the day was awesome.

“The weather was beautiful, the volunteers were awesome,” she said. “The people that came were awesome, they gave, they were pleasant.”

Judy said it amazes her how the wounded warriors come out and work with each other and stand up for their brotherhood.

Tate Hutchinson, a board member of Wounded Warrior Anglers, had the opportunity to attend this year’s tournament.

“It was great,” he said of his experience. “It was very inspirational and it was nice to see the community come together for the veterans.”

Before the day concluded May 24, approximately 500 people stopped by the Olde Fish House Marina to support the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Approximately $12,500 was raised during the 2nd annual tournament, which will help the organization fulfill their mission of helping our wounded warriors and their caregivers.

The 3rd annual Redfish Poker Fishing Championship has already been set for the Saturday before Memorial Day in 2015.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in 2012 by Dave and his wife Judy. 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 Spa 33 in Matlacha, Florida.

For more information, visit http://woundedwarrioranglers.org/

To view more blogs about this organization, visit https://meghan80.wordpress.com/wounded-warrior-anglers-of-america-inc/

Win a boat while helping WWA

The Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. are raffling another boat, courtesy of Fort Myers Marine Owner Chuck Calkins, this year to raise funds for their nonprofit organization.

2014 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 115hp Yamaha four-stroke & trailer

2014 NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with 115hp Yamaha four-stroke & trailer

The 21-foot boat is a 2014, NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay with a 115 horse power Yamaha F115 with a 92-inch beam. It also has a magic tilt trailer and such added features as stainless steel props, 7×7 bow seat base, swim platform with a ladder, single battery switch and two gunnel rod holders.

The boat, motor and trailer packages is valued at approximately  $39,627.

Individuals can view the Sport Bay NauticStar and purchase raffle tickets during the Fort Myers Boat Show from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thu., Nov. 14, Fri., Nov. 15, Sat., Nov. 16 and Sun., Nov. 17 at Harborside Event Center, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers. The boat will be located in the Fort Myers Marine tent and wounded warriors will be volunteering and talking to people during the show.

Three thousand tickets were printed for the raffle, which are $20 a piece or six for $100. The raffle tickets can be purchased online at www.woundedwarrioranglers.org or by calling Judy Souders, vice president of Wounded Warrior Anglers, at 423-620-9104.

The winner of the boat raffle will be announced no later than May 26, 2014 at the Olde Fish House Marina, 4350 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, Florida. The winner need not be present to win. The winner is responsible for the tag, title, delivery, dealer prep, registration and all applicable taxes.

“This is our largest fundraiser that pairs with the tournament on Memorial Day weekend,” Souders said of the Original Redfish Poker Fishing Championship. “This is how we raise funds to provide the Wounded Warrior and Caregiver Retreat for warriors, caregivers, spouses and children.”

The organization holds four large retreats for wounded warriors and their caregivers each year. Wounded Warrior Anglers helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing, which promotes a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal. They also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at Spa 33 in Matlacha.

Purchase a raffle ticket and help support this organization that is doing so much for our warriors and caregivers.

Last year, the 5013c organization raffled off an 18-foot NauticStar, 1810 Nautic Bay boat.

Check out the other blogs I have written about the organization: https://meghan80.wordpress.com/wounded-warrior-anglers-of-america-inc/

 

Meet the WWA board of directors

battle of matlacha

In June of this year, I had the privilege of joining six other board members for the organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc.

I, Meghan McCoy, was first introduced to the organization on Father’s Day in 2012 while covering the Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) event for the Pine Island Eagle. I remember sitting at a picnic table at the Olde Fish House Marina interviewing Dave after he finished speaking at the event. His passion for this organization got me, he truly wanted to help others.

From that moment on, Dave, Judy and I formed an incredible friendship. As I continued to write articles about the organization for the Pine Island Eagle, my love and interest for what they did grew. I was constantly being touched.

This organization has given me the opportunity to thank our service men and women, as well as their caregivers with the simple gesture of shaking their hand or speaking the words thank you.

The excerpt below was taken from another blog I have written, something that I think about often.

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.

Wounded Warrior Anglers is an incredible organization that “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.”

This organization, which was founded in 2012 by Dave, president, and his wife Judy, vice president, has grown leaps and bounds since its inception. That growth happened with the help of many dedicated individuals who all want to make a difference in our wounded warrior lives, as well as their caregivers.

Tate Hutchinson, Treasurer 

Tate Hutchinson, Judy and Dave’s son, is a founding board member . He is an industrial mechanic who lives in Martinsburg, WV who loves to fish. He was in the Army for two years with the 82nd AirBorn.

“I bring my experience of the military service and my love of fishing in hope to accomplish healing the souls of our military men and women for all they have given to our country and its freedom,” Tate said. “We are trying to help heal and give back to our soldiers for all that they have sacrificed for our country. In my opinion, this is one of the most important organizations in our country helping our veterans.”

Marlene Randolph

Marlene Randolph is another founding board member of Wounded Warrior Anglers. She became a member after Dave and Judy asked her help make their idea come to fruition of helping soldiers when they come home.

“Let them know we appreciate their sacrifice and help them find some peace in the normal,” Marlene said.

Marlene lives in Tennessee where she is the owner of ServiceMaster of Greeneville, TN and The Handy Man in Afton, TN.

Lisa Dence

Lisa Dence decided to become a member of the board after a benefit was held at the Olde Fish House Marina, where her and her husband are managers, in June 2012. She moved to Southwest Florida from upstate New York in August 2002.

“I met David and Judy and knew this was an orgnaization I would want our business to support,” Lisa said, adding that Dave asked her to become a board member in 2012. “I am honored to be a part of Wounded Warrior Anglers. David and Judy are amazing people that truly are about making a difference.”

Lisa provides the organization with property in Matlacha, FL – a marina, water access for captains for their boats, as well as open air seating where the wounded warriors and caregivers gather at the end of fishing and spa retreats. She said she also offers the understanding of how important it is to help these wounded warriors through this very stressful time.

“My goal is to make a difference and lasting positive memory even if it is only for a day to let them know that they are not forgotten and how grateful we are for their sacrifice and service,” Lisa said.

Kevin Santos

Kevin Santos, who became a part of the organization in March 2013, enlisted in the Army in 1985.

“I met Dave at a PTSD group at the VA Clinic in June of 2012, I had never heard of his organization and as he was telling me about it, his face was lit with joy,” Kevin said. “I decided to go fishing with him and we had a great time. I have since spent a lot of time volunteering to help him with whatever he needed. We became good friends.”

Kevin believed he could still help the organization more, so he asked Dave if there was anything else he could do, which granted him a member of the board of directors.

The school Kevin had signed up for had been canceled and he was sent home in the late 80s. He returned approximately seven months later to continue school as a concrete mobile mixer operator. Kevin graduated and was selected to attend Ranger school and was later recruited by the special operations command and sent to SFAS.

“In 1986, I graduated from SFAS and was assigned to the 10th Special Forces unit at Ft. Devens in Massachusetts. I spent six years with 10th group and was deployed to Libya, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Iraq,” Kevin shared. “I returned from Iraq in 1991 and was assigned to a special task force to train members of the other branches of the military in repelling and close quarters combat.”

Unfortunately Kevin fell from a 60 foot repelling tower and was paralyzed for four years, spent two additional years in a wheel chair before walking with crutches and a cane for two more years.

In 1999, he joined the National Guard and trained as a medic and was stationed in San Antonio and Wyoming for a total of two years. In 2002, he returned to active duty and did another tour in Iraq, then Korea before joining the 101st and did two more tours in Iraq. Kevin finally retired in October 2007 and moved to Cape Coral, FL.

Kevin brings a great deal of ideas to the organization, which he explains are sometimes so far out of the box they have their own zip code.

“I would like to see the organization become a national organization and have members in every state in the U.S. and be able to do more for their veterans and their caregivers,” Kevin said.

The organization stands out for Kevin and is like no other veteran organization because it has a lot of younger veterans involved. He said Wounded Warrior Anglers also includes the caregivers in many activities and retreats, which he also enjoys.

“I feel that just by being around other veterans and going out to go fishing or hunting or just doing something with them, I have improved my life,” Kevin said. “I am getting better at coping with stress and my PTSD just because I know that nothing will ever happen that will spark a relapse or a flashback while I am with them, they have my back and I have theirs.”

John Lynch

John Lynch, a lieutenant with the Cape Coral Fire Department, became a board member four months ago. The Matlacha resident fishes almost every single day that he is home off of his dock.

“I was having lunch at the Olde Fish House and overheard Judy and David Souders setting up their first fundraiser and introduced myself,” John said. “I thought Tammey and Nadine at Spa 33 might help out with the wives, girlfriends and caregivers. It’s the best way I thought we could help. Tammey and Nadine loved the idea and really ran with it.”

(Note: The Wounded Warrior Anglers offer a Warrior and Caregiver Retreat throughout the year. Warriors are treated to a day out on the water fishing, thanks to the generosity of captains and their boats. The caregivers are also treated at Spa 33 in Matlacha with a day of pampering – manicure, facials, massages, make-up and their hair styled)

John said he would like to help Wounded Warrior Anglers grow and touch as many returning wounded warriors as possible. He said it stands out as a local, home-grown, small organization that David and Judy started to provide a positive experience for our returning service men and women.

“What I bring to this organization is a tiny thank you for the sacrifice, service and dedication that these men and women and their families have provided for protecting our nation and its freedoms,” John said.

Tony Rogers

Tony Rogers purchased a home more than two years ago and made the area near Matlacha on the water his permanent home in June 2012.

He served as a federal immigration judge in Dallas, TX for more than 17 years until he retired in 2010. Tony is also a retired Army Colonel. He served as an infantry officer and combat aviator during the Vietnam War. After law school,  he served as a judge advocate and military judge for the duration of his career. His career also includes serving as a professor at law schools, as well as on the faculty of the National Judicial College.

“I ran into Dave and Judy at Publix shortly after moving here and the ‘Army Ranger’ sticker on the back on my SUV got Dave’s attention and we began talking about Wounded Warrior Anglers,” Tony said. “I participated in the first event and was the guy who was out fished by a 13-year-old.”

(Note: Tony donated his time and boat as a volunteer captain to take the wounded warriors out on the water during a retreat.)

Shortly after participating in that event he was asked if he would like to become a board member.

“I enjoy the opportunity to interact with the warriors and to give them a positive experience. As a combat veteran from Vietnam, I served as an infantry officer and pilot. I know something of what these folks bring home with them and the nation was not as welcoming in my era, so I am happy to provide a better experience. The guys I have taken out have a wide range of challenges including extensive TBI, amputations and early onset dementia relating to IED’s.”

Tony said overall his participation with the organization has been a rewarding experience.

“I think I get more out of it than the folks I take out,” he said. “We seldom talk about war or combat, which might surprise the casual observer, but our focus is on fishing and relaxation.”

A year of changing lives

June 1 marked the one year anniversary for Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, a nonprofit organization that is changing the lives of our service men and women and their caregivers.

I had the honor of meeting Dave for the first time last June at an event held in Matlacha, FL. His vision and excitement for an organization that is near and dear to his heart poured out of him as he told me what his mission was and what he hoped to accomplish.

battle of matlachaAn excerpt from my blog “Hearts of Gold” . . .

The concept of the organization formed after David was injured in 2008 while he was in the service. The serenity of fishing, along with his wife Judy, helped him get through the difficult times during his injury and healing process.

Dave served in the Marines from 1985-1992, before going into the reserves from 1992-1995. He then served in the Air National Guard in 2006 and medically retired on May 31, 2012. In 2008, he was injured while in the service.

Military life runs very deep in this gentleman’s family, due to members of his family serving since the Revolutionary War.

His love of fishing and passion for helping others turned into something bigger while he was rehabbing himself through injury. Dave always says since he is out on the water fishing, why not bring other wounded warriors with him to share the sense of relaxation and escape from every and any stressor that goes hand-in-hand with an injury.

End of excerpt … which was written on Jan. 4.

Soon after meeting Dave, I met his wife Judy on another assignment where a lifelong friendship instantly formed.

This woman has been Dave’s caretaker for more than 20 years, which in itself is a beautiful thing.

I have experienced so many great moments, so many great conversations and met so many incredible wounded warriors and their caregivers since that initial conversation with the co-founders. My life has become enriched in numerous ways, all because I am a part of an organization that does so much for others.

Now looking back, I am proud to say I have experienced almost every step of the way during this past year with the co-founders of this wonderful organization. Their “hearts of gold” are constantly forming new ides to continue to help these men and women who have kept us safe while serving in one of the branches of our military.

I remember receiving a phone call from Judy many months ago sharing an exciting phone call Dave received out of the blue. That phone call led to a very special day for this couple last week.

A tremendous contribution was given to this organization a day before their first year anniversary, so Judy and Dave can further help those in need.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Member Guy Lee, Caregiver Rosa Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Angel Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder David Souders, Seafarers International Union Port Agent Kris Hopkins, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder Judy Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Board Member Tony “The Judge” Rogers.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Member Guy Lee, Caregiver Rosa Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Angel Vazquez, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder David Souders, Seafarers International Union Port Agent Kris Hopkins, Wounded Warrior Anglers Co-Founder Judy Souders, Wounded Warrior Anglers Board Member Tony “The Judge” Rogers.

Seafarers International Union Port Agent Kris Hopkins donated $20,000 to Wounded Warrior Anglers, funds collected from a tournament they held at their school in Maryland earlier this year.I decided to call Kris, so I could interview him for an article I was working on for the Eagle. I wanted to share with the entire community what took place at the Olde Fish House Marina on Friday.

A quote that stood out to me during our interview, one that I included in the article . . .

“I think it is important that we recognize the people that have served our country and became injured and critically disabled,” Hopkins said. “It is important that we give back to them.”

This donation, this generous offer, all came about because Seafarers International Union Executive Board Member George Tricker decided to make Wounded Warrior Anglers the recipient of the inaugural event.

Dave and Judy said they were initially excited because Seafarers International Union wanted to include some of their wounded warriors in the tournament – a day for these men and women to spend out on the water fishing.

Never in their wildest dreams did they expect to receive a donation, let alone a donation of that magnitude.

When I talked to Judy and Dave Saturday they were still speechless from the donation.

“We still are really overwhelmed with the generosity of what these folks have done for the origination,” Judy said in a quote that was added in the Pine Island Eagle article.

Judy and Dave’s voices were filled with so much emotion and pure joy . . . Although we were not talking face-to-face, I could hear the smilies spread across their faces, the smile that remained during our entire conversation.

This donation will only help them further serve the wounded warriors and caregivers during their retreat. The money will allow them to continue to buy rods and reels, a gift to the men and women to take home once they are done with their fishing outing, as well as covering the cost of housing while they are in town.

The Warrior and Caregiver Retreat is a beautiful event that brings together individuals while treating them to a stress free day. My heart is always filled with extreme joy after attending one of these functions because of the laughter, conversations and friendships that are formed.

I truly look forward to witnessing what transpires during the Wounded Warrior Anglers second year, especially now that I am a board member. It’s amazing to be a part of something that is incredibly special, something that brings so much joy to an individuals life who has suffered so much while keeping us safe.

Here is too many more years of helping others and expanding this wonderful organization, Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“Changing lives one warrior at a time.”

For more information visit http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org.

Heartwarming experience

What an emotional, gratifying, heartwarming, special, spectacular day yesterday.

Men and women were invited to Matlacha this past weekend to take part in the Warrior and Caregiver Retreat, two days put on by Wounded Warrior Anglers to treat the warriors and caregivers to a stress free day.

Friday night kicked off with a captain’s dinner at Miceli’s Restaurant in Matlacha to provide the warriors and caregivers with the opportunity to meet the men who were taking them out on the water the following day. As everyone gathered around the table and enjoyed pizza, new friendships were formed. Conversations were had, laughter was shared and life long memories were created.

It’s truly amazing to witness how complete strangers turn into instant friends in a matter of minutes for the simple reason of them sharing a common experience – serving in the military.

Saturday morning I arrived at the Olde Fish House Marina minutes before a presentation was had by Tim, who is a part of Bimimi Bay Outfitters. He presented the warriors with rods and reels. The night before the warriors received sunglasses for their fishing trip.

Dave Souders, co-founder of Wounded Warrior Anglers, said the rod and reel is a tool for their own therapy, so they can continue to fish beyond the day of the retreat.

As all the warriors were called upon to receive their rod and reel the excitement of fishing began to fill the space.

Once completed, the captains and warriors filled one of eight boats that were stocked with what they needed. Their spouses, or significant others, kissed them goodbye and sent them on their way wishing a great day of fishing.

As everyone became settled the engines were turned on and the boats departed one at a time. The smiles and glows that filled these warrior’s faces were priceless. The captains also shared the same excitement.

The amazing part of that moment, is all of these captains donated their time and boats Saturday because they all believe in the organization’s cause.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeorge who joined the festivities for the first time Saturday, as a captain, said the experience of taking the warriors out on the boat was “awesome.” He instantly became hooked and is looking forward to the next retreat.

As George sat there and shared stories of their day out on the water, a permanent smile remained on his face as he shared how excited Paul, one of the warriors on his boat, was the entire time they were fishing. Although Jim, another warrior that was aboard the boat, goes fishing quite often, George said Jim shared that it was the best day he has had on the water since October.

Those reasons alone are what captures the beauty of what the organization is all about. These generous captains created a stress free day for these warriors who battle with so many injuries and PTSD. Because of these captains, these men and women who fought for our freedom and served our country, forget about their worries while focusing on catching fish after fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA short time after they left the docks, five caregivers and Dave’s wife, Judy, also a co-founder of the organization, walked to Spa 33 for their day of relaxation.

Nadine and Tammey, owners of Spa 33 in Matlacha, close their business for the day to treat caregivers to a manicure, facial, massage, make-up, as well as a having their hair styled. These owners wanted to take care of these caregivers because they take care of the warriors who kept us safe. They shared that so many times when women are taking care of their loved ones they often times forget to take care of themselves.

The day, I believe was just as touching to Nadine and Tammey, as well as the rest of their staff, as it was to all of the caregivers. What huge hearts these women have. Once again because of their generosity, life long memories were created as some of the women experienced massages for the first time.

Again, these women who met for the first time this weekend shared an instant connection, which sparked nonstop conversations of their husbands, and boyfriend, as well as the experiences they had when they were deployed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was such a positive environment that had continuous laughter as the women one-by-one became more relaxed as they were treated to personalize pampering.

The word “thank you” was shared more than once as the afternoon began to sink in for these caregivers.

Although a day of pampering was had, Danielle said she enjoyed the conversation the most.

“The conversation was my favorite,” she said. “I’m talking to adults and not kids.”

Many of the women expressed that they were more excited about their husband and boyfriend being out on the water fishing. They all said it was good for them because many times they do not share the experiences they had while in the service.

This is the second time I have spent the day with the men and women who were brought in from either Lee County, Collier County or other areas of Florida for the retreat. The day pulls on my heart as I witness just how much the day means to them . . . how as the day goes on they become more relaxed and their daily worries disappear.

I am so fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful organization that truly helps others. I am also honored to have been asked to serve on their board.

battle of matlachaThe conversations I had with these men and women will stay with me forever, especially one I had after the men returned from their fishing trip.

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.

Although I will never know what these men and women experienced while they served our country, Wounded Warrior Anglers continously provides me with plenty of opportunities to thank them for what they have done.

Judy and Dave have created something special. Because of this special couple, these men and women’s circle of friends continues to grow, which in itself is a beautiful thing because it is another support system that will be with them forever.