Disabled vets take to the lake for fishing, friendship
LaFontaine, who is the director of the National Bass Trail Event for the New England Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (NEPVA), launched an annual fishing tournament for disabled veterans in 1999.
He explained that the event arose from a promise he made to his best friend, who, after returning from service during the Vietnam War, suffered emotional scars and ultimately died from alcoholism. LaFontaine said that fishing provided his friend with healthy recreation and comfort.
“For seven years of his sobriety, I got him into fishing. One of his last wishes was for me to keep taking people fishing,” said LaFontaine.
Eventually, LaFontaine did enough research to pitch a proposal to veterans groups to create an event that caters to disabled or paralyzed veterans.
One of the highlight events of the year is a weekend fishing event and family outing provided free of charge to veterans and their families at various locations in each of the six New England states.
In New Hampshire, Camp Robindel will host more than two dozen disabled or paralyzed veterans and their families for a day of fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee, and a weekend of food, friendship and fun.
Last weekend, disabled and paralyzed veterans fished during the National Bass Fisherman Trail in different locations, but this weekend is special; Camp Robindel owner Nate Greenfield has donated the facility, one of the premier girls camps in the area, at no cost to the veterans.
NEPVA volunteer Lori Chase said the event depends upon donations and a small army of volunteers. Boat captains from as far away as Connecticut, Georgia and Indiana are pitching in for this weekend’s tournament, where some veterans will fish from shore, and others from boats.
Both Chase and LaFontaine say the event gives veterans a chance to do something they loved but that their disability inhibits at times.
Chase said that last year, the wife of a disabled veteran said that ever since her husband had become wheelchair dependant, he hadn’t gone fishing, but that he loves to fish.
“This weekend, he and his family get the chance to come and fish and be with fellow fisherman,” said Chase, adding that the friendships formed at these annual events last year after year.
Sign-ups are closed for this year’s event, but anyone who would like to participate next year, volunteer or donate to the cause is welcomed to visit the NEPVA website, nepva.org, or call the Walpole-based chapter at 1-800-660-1181.
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John Quinn may be reached at email@example.com.
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