It is rare to be able to meet, greet, and rub elbows with hundreds of U.S. Veteran wheelchair athletes, but that’s what happened at the 37th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games here in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 17-22. Six hundred athletes were expected to attend.
For one day only, vendors and sponsors hosted information booths for veterans and their caregivers. As the program leader for the Cincinnati Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, I was honored to be one of those information providers, and grateful to VHA Director of Volunteer Services Sabrina Clark, for asking PHWFF to share a booth with Volunteer Services.
What attracted Veterans to our booth? Fly tying. I tied one quick fly pattern, a Tenkara Kebari that looks like a lot of other flies—just thread and feather on a #12 curved hook. It ties up fast. It catches trout, blue gills and an occasional bass. It’s effective using any fly rod—conventional or Tenkara. It may have seemed simple to me, but I noticed how individuals were in awe about how a fly is actually tied. Many asked questions and indicated interest in learning fly tying. All were surprised that I took the time to tie a fly just for them.
The result was a line of wheelchairs lining up for a “free fly.” They also received information about Project Healing Waters. Several dozen wheelchair veterans rolled away with a smile on their face and a fly in their pockets and backpacks … in a protective cup with lid. I couldn’t tie them fast enough. A few veterans knew about PHWFF, some had participated, but most wanted to know more about this fly fishing program for veterans and how they could participate. Contact information was provided for the nearest program to where they live.
A big thank you goes again to Sabrina Clark, and my booth partners, Traci Washington and Ryan Pleasants chiefs of Volunteer Services of Columbus and Dayton.
The games are sponsored by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The 2018 games will be held in Houston. You can learn more about the games at www.WheelchairGames.org.
See you on the highway.