The Sierra Club Military Families Outdoors and Veterans Initiative is excited to partner with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing! Later this year we will offer a leadership and training course to ensure more veterans, their families, spouses, and interested community members learn how to be leaders in PHW-FF and get more veterans and their families out to our Nation's waters! Here's what Dr. Warren Phillips, has to say about the program:
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., (PHWFF) serves military personnel who have been wounded, injured, or disabled to aid their emotional and physical recovery by introducing or rebuilding the skills of fly fishing and fly tying and by using and enjoying the benefits of these skills on fishing outings and as lifelong recreation. In association with Federation of Fly Fishers and Trout Unlimited, PHWFF serves the diverse group of both active military personnel and veterans with disabilities throughout the nation and in Canada. We are delighted to be able to partner with the Sierra Club, Military Families Outdoor program to expand our ability to help more affected military to realize the advantages of outdoor activity.
The project’s activities are designed to rekindle and enhance participants’ appreciation and enthusiasm for fishing outings while also encouraging socialization, adjustment, and community reentry. PHWFF relies on fishing organizations and clubs to sponsor events. The volunteer staff and instructors include professional educators and fishing guides as well as experienced anglers, all of whom donate their time and knowledge to support the participants. All PHWFF activities are dependent on tax deductible financial donations under the provisions of Section 501©(3) of the IRS Code. PHWFF strives to effectively serve the deserving past and present members of our armed forces who have made great sacrifices in the service of our Nation.
We are proud of our accomplishments to date:
Provided thousands of hours of classes throughout the United States in the basics of fly fishing, casting, fly tying, wading and rod building
More than 3,000 wounded veterans have participated in our classes
Many of the participants have developed the confidence and skill to teach their peers
500 veterans or active duty servicemen and women have participated in several three, five and ten day fishing trips and approximately 2,500 veterans have experienced one-day outings
We’ve worked with a variety of individuals with disabilities, both psychological (PTSD, TBI) and physical (amputations, loss of vision, hearing impairments, paralysis, etc.).
Our ratio of program to overhead expenditures has been better than 80:20 for the last two years
Our program has been featured in major magazines, including The American Legion magazine and Vanguard, the official publication of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Our 2010 trip to the Big Horn River was featured on the TV show “Fly Rod Chronicles” and was so popular that it has been re-shown several times
Our 2010 national 2-Fly Tournament was also featured on “Fly Rod Chronicles” as were two Spruce Creek fishing trips and an inaugural PHWFF event in Cherokee, North Carolina
Since Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing was established in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., we have grown to over 100 programs in 38 states and the District of Columbia
The sport of fly fishing has been approved as an authorized physical therapy by the VA
Therapeutic recreation has become a prominent modality in mental health treatment although its role may not yet be fully realized. Involvement in recreational activities shows a consistent positive relationship in improved self-esteem, self-efficacy, social skills, problem solving, and greater levels of cooperation and trust. Through the therapeutic benefits of fly fishing, veterans with disabilities who have endured the stress of serving in harm’s way participate in a recreational activity that enhances mental health and addresses symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In contrast to the traumatic experiences of warfare, fly fishing embraces the calm of pursuing a wild fish in a natural, untrammeled environment that is then carefully released, unharmed, into its watery sanctuary, and allowed to remain free.
The residual therapeutic impact varies depending upon each individual’s disabling condition, but participation in PHWFF may increase motivation and attendance at outpatient therapy sessions while also enhancing self-confidence and address the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, i.e., sleep disturbance, irritability, anxiety, substance use, etc. There are additional physical therapeutic benefits including improved fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, balance, range of motion, concentration and more.
Partnering with Sierra Club MFO programs would offer support to existing programs and develop new programs enhanced by Sierra Club participation. Jointly we intend to develop a “TRAIN THE TRAINER” curriculum to identify and recruit leadership-trainees. Our goal is to continue program development with MFO in an ongoing effort to assist veterans with disabilities benefit from recreational activities through fly fishing. We hope that together with Sierra Club a lasting partnership to help veterans with disabilities transition back into society and the outdoors is accomplished.
Warren R. Phillips, Ph.D.
Acting CEO, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing