|Captain's meeting - 59 registered anglers and many volunteers there to help
The camaraderie at this event was second to none. With the absence of strong egos and drama, everyone was there for the same reason. There was no shortage of smiles, jokes, and simple good times with the spirit of competition. There was also no shortage of amazing food. Luther Cifers of YakAttack, along with his family provided ribs and ribeyes after the Captain's meeting on Friday and a full pig was pulled on Saturday after the awards ceremony. The spread they put out was simply amazing and definitely worth more than the entry fee alone. Throw in two huge tables covered in generously donated raffle items and the knowledge that all the proceeds go to help HOW, it's a win-win for everyone.
After helping to unload all the kayaks for the vets, who were expected a few hours later, I launched to an amazing sunrise.
|Left: Phillip Ruckart and son. Right: Chuck Wrenn
|The Jersey Boys
As the morning progressed the wind picked up, making things very challenging. I was able to scrounge up one little 11" largemouth, before the air horn let me know that the vets were almost at the launch. Upon meeting up with the other volunteers, I was relieved to know that I was not the only one having a tough time with the fish. We all switched gears and went into guide mode as the vets got off the van.
|Tina Shank making sure the vet is comfortable and safe
I paired up with Jerry, who had done this once before and was eager to get on the water. I didn't ask him, but for someone who uses a walker and obviously has limited mobility while on land, it had to feel pretty darn good to be just like everyone else in a kayak and have that sense of freedom on the water.
Although we didn't catch anything, I know he had a good time... flirting with Tina, joking around, yelling at his buddies on the water... he wanted to go right back out after lunch!
At the awards ceremony Jim Shank said something that I couldn't help nodding my head to. We know that the vets get something out of going out on the water. That's why this program exists. But the volunteers also get something. Knowing that we're helping and giving back is quite the reward.
When the veteran gets off the water and thanks you for spending that time with them, it makes you want to keep doing it.
A big thank you to everyone who made this possible... Tina and Jim Shank, the YakAttack family, all the sponsors and people who donated, and everyone that came out to support the event. Congrats to all the winners of the tournament. I had an absolutely amazing time. It was great to meet new people, put faces to some names, and catch up with good friends.