Project Healing Waters teaches disabled vets fly fishing

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Courtesy: PHWFF Huntsville Chapter

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Nine years ago, a program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. sought to give disabled veterans returning home from a war a chance to find healing on the water.

From that effort, Project Healing Waters was born. Today, the organization supports 173 programs in 49 states, teaching disabled vets how to fly fish. Everything, from the fishing gear to the instruction to the fishing trips, comes at no cost to the veteran.

In February 2014, a Huntsville chapter was launched. The group now meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month at Covenant Presbyterian Church at 301 Drake in Huntsville.

Eric Cohen is the chapter’s program leader. He hopes to encourage more disabled veterans to participate. All are welcome, although to attend the national and regional fishing trips – free of charge – the veteran must be at least 30% disabled.

The organization can also provide any specialty equipment needed. Cohen says there are, “prosthetic devices that will actually hold a fly rod at their chest if they only have use of one arm,” as well as wheelchairs that can take a veteran right into a stream.

There are only half a dozen paid staff members at the national level. Locally, the effort is entirely volunteer-run and dependent on donations. Cohen puts out a call on Facebook whenever he needs new flies for his veterans. He says donations of hand-tied flies come in from as far away as California and Wisconsin.

The chapter is also always looking for new places to take the veterans fishing. Land owners who would be willing to allow the vets to fish on their property are asked to contact Project Healing Waters Regional Coordinator.

The regional coordinator can also put interested veterans in touch with the Huntsville chapter. Emails may be sent to tennvalley@projecthealingwaters.org or vets can contact Cohen directly at ericjaycohen@yahoo.com

If you’d like to make a financial contribution to the program, donations may be mailed to: Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, PO Box 695, La Plata, MD 20646. Checks should include the notation “Huntsville, Ala chapter” if you want your donation to stay local.