Pay It Forward Veterans Crush Walleyes, Create Magic
It started out as an idea to “give back” to those who have given and still give so much. The name we chose for the Lake of the Woods Area veteran’s event was “Pay It Forward”. We thought it was appropriate for many reasons. This past week, July 1 – 4, for the sixth straight year, 60 veterans converged on Lake of the Woods for a 3 night, 2 day all expenses paid fishing trip. They arrived from neighboring states and all across MN. When it’s all said and done, veterans of all types, male and female, various branches of the military, some in the heart of conflicts overseas, many with a physical and/or psychological ailments such as PTSD or TBI come together and rub elbows with other veterans. Veterans spending time with other veterans on and around Lake of the Woods in a loving and supportive environment. This recipe is what makes the Pay It Forward event so magical.
There are so many touching stories. Some are happy stories. Some are not so happy. Like many veterans discuss, for many, even though back home, the “battle” is still real, maybe just in a different form. This event allows veterans to forget about challenges, at least for a few days. Hand picked speakers help shed light on a variety if issues, resources and solutions affecting our veterans. How to peruse the VA medical system? Where can I go for a job? What does a veteran’s service officer do and how can I reach one? Are their support groups? How can I receive help for my specific struggles? What is my purpose in life? In many cases, there are resources or groups that can be helpful in some way to veterans.
One of the guest speakers this year was Dr. Jim Tuorila. Jim has a number of accomplishments under his belt when it comes to assisting veterans. He worked as as a psychologist for more than 20 years at the St. Cloud VA, started the honor flights bringing WWII veterans to Washington DC and was instrumental in starting Freedom Flight which are hot air balloons with POW MIA on the balloons which drive awareness. Dr. Tuorila spoke to veterans after dinner our opening night. With his experience, he really reached a numbers of veterans with his message. One of his messages was quoting Mark Twain. “The two most important days in your life are when you were born and the day you find out why.” As you can imagine, there were a lot of thought provoking messages that helped process and deal with life as a veteran.
Roughly 20 veterans commit suicide every day. That number is too high. A number of caring veterans, people, volunteers and folks working with organizations who help veterans are part of the Pay It Forward event. There are a number of key ingredients that come together to make a good recipe. Everyone of those ingredients are important and in this case, it is no different.
This year, and since the outset, Fishing For Life has assisted as a partner of Pay It Forward. They are a group based out of the Twin Cities but reaching out to folks throughout the region helping tremendously with bringing veterans together, identifying issues and providing solutions, creating veterans events that are key to fostering support and so much more.
Pay It Forward is made possible through the generosity and giving nature of sponsors. This includes resorts who donate lodging, charters and meals, small businesses who believe in helping veterans enjoy a fishing trip aboard a charter boat in this loving, caring environment along with the positive outcomes we see year in and year out. Thank you to all sponsors who make this event happen.
This year we had a special treat for one of the dinners as Steve Demaray of Shooter’s BBQ read an article about the Pay It Forward event and wanted to give back. He drove all the way up from Iowa with his BBQ Grill and cooked BBQ for all of the veterans. The BBQ was absolutely incredible as was the gesture. Thank you Steve!
This past week’s event, like every event, brought very special people who happen to be veterans to Lake of the Woods. And once again, magic happened.
If you are interested in yourself or perhaps a company being a sponsor or if you are a veteran or know of a veteran who may be interested, check out www.payitforwardlow.org or our Pay it Forward page. You can also email Joe Henry at Joe.Henry@LakeoftheWoodsMN.com or give a call to 320-260-7727.
Thank you to all veterans and all who protect and serve!