Due to a successful first year of the therapeutic partnership between Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and Reel Recovery in 2015, retreat opportunities were expanded in 2016 to encompass three joint retreats for male veterans in the cancer recovery process.   The retreats took place on September 30 at Bar Lazy J Ranch in Kremmling, COOctober 26 at Rose River Farm in Syria, VA; and November 1 in Waring, TX.   Each retreat was offered at no-cost to the participants and was led by professional facilitators and expert fly fishing instructors and each provided an outstanding venue for PHWFF participants in the cancer recovery process to continue on their journey of healing and recovery, while simultaneously becoming involved with another like-minded community and organization.

Each retreat took place over the course of three days and was filled with fly fishing instruction, courageous conversation (a therapeutic peer round-table discussions/support group), groups meals, camaraderie, and of course, angling.

The Bar Lazy J Ranch in Kremmling, CO hosted a superb retreat on September 30, 2016, thanks to the dedicated facilitators, volunteers and ranch staff.  Seven participants from Colorado and Wyoming attended the whole weekend.  Many of the men reported that they greatly appreciated the opportunity to converse with other men about their cancer experience.  The group engaged in thoughtful, poignant, heartfelt conversations with many of the courageous conversations going well-past the allotted time.  In addition, the fishing was great and the weather superb with each participant enjoying the remarkable surroundings and hooking up with fish.   It was evident that many participants were able to “lose” themselves on the water – smiling and laughing amongst their peers and the stunning landscape of Colorado.

   “All in all, it was a great retreat and I’m happy to be collaborating with PHWFF.” – Justin Short, MPH, MSW, LCSW* Ridgeline Counseling Services, LLC

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Participants and Volunteers in Kremmling, CO

Now in its second year, the Virginia retreat took place at Rose River Farm, the National Home Waters of PHWFF, and Graves Mountain Lodge near Syria, Virginia on October 23, 2016.  As the site of the first-ever joint retreat between Reel Recovery and PHWFF it was a privilege to return to these meaningful mountains and rivers.   The most notable and prevailing feedback was the incredible camaraderie and support that the disabled veterans experienced with each other during this event.  Since the ten participants that attended this event came in with two things that they already had in common (with being disabled veterans & fighting or in recovery from cancer) it created a group dynamic that the volunteers noticed was much stronger then it would have been if they were just disabled veterans or if they were just individuals recovering from cancer.

“Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing’s partnership with Reel Recovery will allow our organization to further our mission of healing disabled veterans through fly fishing and allow us to better serve our participants who are recovering from cancer.  It means a lot to me to be able to support this event since I’m both a wounded veteran and a cancer survivor.” – David Folkerts, COO – Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing

Participants and Volunteers in Syria, VA

Waring, Texas offered another unique retreat experience in the south central United States.  PHWFF Program Lead Mike Schlimgen served as a fishing buddy during the retreat and recounts his experience:

“Cancer Sucks . . . . so reads the button attached to my Reel Recovery hat. Twelve military veterans, all cancer survivors attended the first ever joint venture retreat in Texas between Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and Reel Recovery. Both of these national non-profits understand the enormous healing benefits of fly fishing.  Mike Emerson is the Texas State Coordinator for Reel Recovery. Mike and his team of dedicated workers, invited Dave Gill and Nick Scarpinato and me to help out as fishing buddies for this past week at Camp Capers, Waring, Texas. Our good friend, Lew Duckwall, the PHWFF Program Lead from North Texas attended as a participant.

The cool clear waters of the fabled Guadalupe River, tumbles and ripples through the Texas Hill Country, on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Several species of bass, catfish, and sunfish are native to this epic waterway.  I served as a fishing buddy to my new friend, Jim. His decades of military service span from Vietnam to Afghanistan. It was an honor to assist him as he experienced his first ever fly fishing adventure.”

Participants and Volunteers in Waring, TX

Participants and Volunteers in Waring, TX

 “We’re thrilled to have partnered with PHWFF to expand Reel Recovery’s Retreat Program to male veterans living with cancer. While we’ve had many veterans attend our retreats over the past 13 years, we are honored to continue partnering with PHWFF to serve these courageous men as a group.” – Stan Golub, Executive Director – Reel Recovery

Through involvement with the work and activities of Reel Recovery, veterans will advance their skills in the sport of fly fishing while joining a new community of friends and mentors who share their own personal experiences with cancer.  The educational component of both organizations missions’ couple perfectly with the therapeutic respite intrinsically embedded in nature and the sport of fly fishing.