“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/

Now a board member

battle of matlacha

Friday night I received an exciting call from my dear friend Judy, a friend who began an outstanding organization with her husband Dave.

That phone call shared some great news – the existing board of directors voted me in as their newest board member for Wounded Warrior Anglers. Wow, I am beyond proud and honored to be a part of this wonderful organization that does tremendous things for our soldiers.

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

Dave has told me since day one, why not bring other wounded warriors with him out fishing to share the sense of relaxation and escape from every and any stressors that go hand-in-hand with an injury? This wonderful concept and dedication to help others turned into an organization, a 501c3 organization, that is now a year old.

Over the past year I have had the pleasure of meeting many men and women who have served in the military because of this organization. Many who have touched me in ways that I will never be able to fully explain – many of which left tears in my eyes.

One of those individuals is Travis Downes, a man who served in the Army from 2000 to 2006. He was stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia. While serving he had two combat deployments, both on the front line for a year at a time.

I was the editor of the Pine Island Eagle in Southwest Florida the first time I met Travis, while working on an article about a business where he is employed. Our encounters became more frequent after that, especially when I became involved in the organization. Our conversations also become more fluent as our friendship grew. Now, with the convenience of Facebook, we stay in touch throughout the week.

Wounded Warrior Anglers hosts retreats a few times a year to treat our wounded warriors and their caregivers to a day full of relaxation. As the warriors are taken out on the boat for a day of fishing, their caregivers spend a day at the spa for a day full of pampering.

Travis said he really enjoys the retreats because it gives him the opportunity to meet other warriors, some of which he still stays in contact with to this day. The retreat also gives him the opportunity to relax which is  beneficial because of some of the injuries he is faced with on a daily basis –  PTSD, hearing impairment and mild traumatic brain injury.

I have personally seen the state of relaxation these soldiers are in once they return to the docks at the Olde Fish House Marina in Matlacha, Florida. It’s almost like all of their daily stresses, pains and worries disappear, which is an amazing site to see.

I am beyond thrilled to be a part of Wounded Warrior Anglers for many of the reasons I have stated above. What better way to give back to those who have put their lives on the line to make sure we stay safe then to be personally involved as a board of director for an organization who serves them?