The strong, generous community spirit that embraces the MCI and the veterans served by PHWFF each year were abundantly apparent on the Thursday preceding the tournament. Local volunteers and supporters gathered in Bridgewater to prepare the creek’s banks for the tournament, set-up the tent, and to ensure the upcoming MCI went flawlessly for the veterans attending and competing. A special moment was taken this year to remember two special volunteers lost in the past year. Carter Lewis and Matt Kenney exemplified the spirit that is the Mossy Creek Invitational. In their honor, an award was established – “The Spirit of Mossy Creek” – to recognize the selfless and giving actions of an individual in-support of the MCI and the veterans it serves. The first recipient of “The Spirit of Mossy Creek” was Ronnie Knicley – one of the many selfless and giving members of the MCI family.
Friday, June 3rd offered a pre-tournament outing to the Thornton River near Sperryville, VA. As the tournaments veteran competitors came from PHWFF Programs from around the country, this outing gave them the opportunity to meet and “warm-up” on a fantastic local trout stream. Following their day on the water, dozens of people attended a social gathering at O’Neill’s Grill in Harrisonburg, VA. As in past years, the gathering at O’Neills Grill brought sponsors, volunteers, guides, PHWFF leadership, and veterans together for an enjoyable time. The social hour provided friends, old and new alike, with the opportunity to visit, catch-up, and discuss tactics for the tournament in a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
“This represents another wonderful gesture by a local company to thank our servicemen and women for all of their sacrifices. Following the reception the annual donors’ appreciation dinner was held at the Mossy Creek Lodge.” – PHWFF Chairman and MCI Host, Bob Fitch
Following the reception, everyone returned to their hotels in Harrisonburg and Bridgewater, VA to rest and prepare for the exciting day ahead. The town of Bridgewater, VA, through the efforts of Mayor Hallie Dinkel, a USAF Vietnam veteran, marked the occasion with an outpouring of hospitality and generosity. American Flags were hoisted throughout the town and a banner was flown over Dinkel Avenue welcoming the veterans and volunteers.
The morning air and beautiful setting stream side served to heighten the eagerness of all to begin plying the trout rich waters of Mossy Creek. Over coffee and a light breakfast, the teams assembled and participants acquainted themselves with sponsors. Host, and PHWFF Chairman, Bob Fitch welcomed those attending while Tournament Director John Miko separately briefed volunteers, guides, and participants.
Mossy Creek is a truly unique fishery: a peaceful limestone spring creek that meanders 8 miles it’s spring-head in the village of Mt. Solon to it’s confluence with the North River. It is an extremely challenging stream and is not recommended as a place for beginners. Dry fly fishermen, familiar with Mossy’s moods fish it carefully and slowly, often crouching or kneeling along the bank. Surface action can take place all year with tiny Olives hatching sporadically throughout the winter. By mid April hatches of larger blue winged olives and sulphurs become regular. Trico action usually begins around Memorial Day and can last until Halloween. It is the summer dry fly fishing for which Mossy is most famous. The MCI has long been hosted on special private water and was graciously provided by Linden Wenger, Bill Gottwald and Bob Fitch.
In addition to their role as MCI guides and organizers, Colby and Brian Trow, the entire crew at Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, and friends donated a fly box, complete with requisite Mossy Creek fly patterns to each veteran participating in the day’s tournament.
To compliment the continued generosity of Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, PHWFF Founder and President Ed Nicholson provided his fly casting and fish catching, drawing upon his intimate wisdom of the Mossy Creek fishery to those veterans competing in the tournament.
Following announcements, the teams headed to their assigned beats for the morning session. The morning lived up to it’s expectations, as the wily inhabitants of Mossy Creek were eager to accept the offerings presented by the competing teams. Many fish were caught throughout the morning as teams worked together and relationships were built stream side.
Breaking for lunch, the veterans, volunteers, and supporters eagerly settled in for an enjoyable lunch donated by Frank Showalter and Golden Corral.
For the afternoon, teams were assigned new sections to fish — enabling each team to cover new water and experience a different section of this unique fishery. As teams tussled with the creeks watery inhabitants smiles abounded up and down the creek accompanied by bent rods and beautiful trout.
The anglers were off the water by 4:00pm, eager to enjoy the Fat ‘n Sassy brisket and salmon dinner planned for 4:30 beneath the tent. However, Mother Nature intervened and at 4:26pm John Miko, our Tournament Director blew the horn and Plan B was put into place. Thanks to Hallie Dinkel, Mayor of Bridgewater, the doors of the basement of the Bridgewater Town Hall was quickly made available. EVERYTHING was moved as a violent storm rapidly overtook the area. Tony and Celia Dunay, two PHWFF volunteers, and CFO Leah McConnell were heroic as they secured raffle prizes, auction items, clothing and the cash box and rapidly changed to the venue three miles away. The tremendous work and support of all MCI Volunteers ensured everyone had moved to safety.
Upon settling in the new venue, and safe from the dangerous storm swirling throughout the valley, all attendees were treated to a fabulous meal while the awards presentation took place. We are proud to announce that CPT Tor Perry, USMC, was the winner of The 9th Annual Mossy Creek Invitational! Join us in congratulating him on this great accomplishment.
Following the presentations, Bill Hayes and Ann Marie spoke powerfully and personally about their journeys and the positive impact that the PHWFF Program, and community, has had on their lives. Their stories of recovery left a lasting impact upon all who bore witness — further reminding, and inspiring all, as to why the MCI exists and the true impact PHWFF has among veterans and servicemen and women in need of our healing waters.
A check for $186, 440 was presented to PHWFF Founder Ed Nicholson and CEO Ellen Killough with a caveat . “There might be more coming in.” We are honored to announce that over $208,000 was raised! Of this, $0.96 of each dollar raised will go directly to supporting our programs across the country.
The Mossy Creek Invitational is a special event. Our deepest thanks go to all the sponsors, and all who contribute, organize, and volunteer their efforts each year towards making it a success. Over $205,000 was raised this year to support all 216 PHWFF programs nationwide and to aide in continuing our work of healing those who serve.
We also extend our deepest thanks to those whose continued efforts make the MCI an annual success. Those include Bob & Robin Fitch (host at the Mossy Creek Lodge); Brian and Colby Trow (owners of Mossy Creek Fly Fishing); John Miko (Tournament Director); Don Bell, the MCI’s on-site coordinator; Bridgewater Mayor Hallie Dinkel; Robin Fitch; Lauren Miko; Tony and Jan Spacey; Allan Yankowski; Ann Marie O’Malley, The Wenger Family; Frank Showalter; Bill Gottwald and the many others who have contributed to making the MCI what it is and making a difference in the lives of PHWFF participants nationwide
Headlining Sponsor: BAE Systems, Inc.
Major sponsors: Lockheed Martin, Golden Corral, The Littleover Group Plc, Jef and Julie Kinney, USO, Guha Bala, John Gottschalk, Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, Steven Toyota, Harrisonburg Honda,Momentum Earthworks, Sustainable Solutions, Chesapeake Restaurants, L3, MICA, Mike and Linda Barbero, Walt and Judy Havenstein, Microsoft, LEIDOS, Bob Wade Suburu and Lincoln, Earthworks, ORVIS