Project Healing Waters Brings Fly Fishing to Disabled Veterans

By flyfishing / January 25, 2017

VA is partnering with community organizers across the country to improve access to care and enhance the Veteran experience. One of those partnerships is with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.

More than 150 VA medical centers, along with military hospitals, warrior transition units and other facilities, refer patients to the fly fishing group for outdoor excursions and recreation therapy. Last year they provided fly fishing excursions for 7,400 disabled Veterans and wounded service members.

This week, Project Healing Waters is holding a “national rendezvous” in Orlando, Florida, to bring together up to 175 program leaders and regional coordinators. They will share best practices and standardize procedures for how the organization provides therapeutic recreational services. Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and Voluntary Service Director Sabrina Clark are among VA leaders scheduled to address the group.

The national rendezvous is being funded by a $298,200 grant through VA’s adaptive sport grant program, under the Office of Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Service. The grant is one of 86 awarded last year through the program, and one of the few devoted to training adaptive sport practitioners. Grants can be used for programs that promote physical activity, games, recreation, training and competition, including training and technical assistance to program administrators.

Recently, VA announced the availability of up to $8 million in FY16 funding for a new round of adaptive sport grants. The application period runs through April 28, 2016. Visit the Adaptive Sports website for information on applying for a grant, or look up funding opportunity number VA ASG-2017-01 at Many VA medical facilities – including the hospitals in Chicago, Milwaukee, Syracuse, Salt Lake City, Reno, Manchester (NH) and others – are partnering with city parks and recreation departments, universities,and other community adaptive sport providers to increase sport and recreation opportunities for disabled Veterans.

About Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing

Retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson founded the organization in 2005 to help wounded Servicemembers recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. An avid outdoorsman, Nicholson knew the fre
sh air and change of scenery would be a welcome relief for soldiers cooped up in a hospital. As his trips progressed, he noticed there was something therapeutic about tying a fly, casting a rod, the sound of the rushing water.

And he was right. According to psychologist Dr. Tamar P. Martin-Franklin, the therapeutic benefits of fly fishing include improved fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, balance, range of motion, concentration, self esteem and a more positive attitude toward the future.

From its origins as a simple day trip, Project Healing Waters now provides classes on fly fishing, casting, tying and rod building along with clinics for beginners as well as those with experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities. The program is available to any disabled Veteran who wants to participate and is unique in that its volunteers are teaching classes on an on-going, long-term basis.

Today, the organization consists of 185 programs nationwide run by a network of 3500 dedicated volunteers. Project Healing Waters CEO Ellen Killough developed the concept of a national rendezvous to bring together all key personnel for the first time in the organization’s 10-year history. “It is through our volunteers that the Project Healing Waters program has flourished. Their selflessness and service to others has ensured the programs growth and success. It is critical that we give them the tools and training they need to continue providing consistent therapeutic experiences at each of our programs nationwide.”

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