Since suffering a stroke during his rehabilitation, Brian has very limited strength in his arms, and was only able to paddle a very short distance before having to turn back. A chance conversation about a three-wheeled trike that the VA had purchased for him led Rik Llewellyn to show him a Hobie “Outback”. Once Brian saw that kayak, a huge smile appeared on his face, “I can do that”. And do it he did - I heard they had a hard time keeping up with him.
Brian joined seven other heroes and their families for a day of paddling and fishing at Fort De Soto Park, located on the tip of Tampa Bay. A stiff breeze greeted the volunteers as they arrived to set up the kayaks.
As our anglers arrived, they were paired up with “guides” who would instruct them on everything from the basics of how to hold the paddle to where the fish were biting.
After receiving their instructions, it was time to launch.
I had the very distinct honor to act as guide for Bill, who was injured in a helicopter crash during Vietnam. A little bit worried about leaving his support dog, “Montana”, behind on shore (we did try to put Montana in the new Malibu “Ranger 15”, but he was so excited he almost tipped it), I could feel his anticipation slip away as we paddled further and further off the launch. When I told Bill I was sorry for not finding the fish, he told me not to worry. “Every day is a good day, fish or no fish.” We hung in there, and the fish gods smiled down on us as we found some nice little trout.
When the bite died down we decided to head back to shore, where a great shore lunch was prepared for our guests. Everyone else had the same idea, and we all came back around the same time.
Walt Ruda (one of volunteers) was the lucky winner of a beautiful donated tailing redfish print that was raffled off to raise funds for HOW. Walt was gracious enough to pass it along to one of our heroes, Patrick.
All too soon, the day came to an end and everyone packed up to head home. I was left with another phrase to keep me motivated until our next event:
“Every day is a good day.” Man, ain’t that the truth.
Last names for our heroes have been omitted to protect their privacy.