Vets cast from kayaks in fishing tourney
On a sunny and serene Saturday, 10 area veterans took part in a kayak fishing tournament organized just for them. Homeless and Wounded Warriors-MN, a Crosslake-based nonprofit organization, hosted the first of what one of the group's leaders hope...
On a sunny and serene Saturday, 10 area veterans took part in a kayak fishing tournament organized just for them.
Homeless and Wounded Warriors-MN, a Crosslake-based nonprofit organization, hosted the first of what one of the group's leaders hopes will become an annual event. Steve Eisenreich said the tournament was intended to give veterans a few hours of peace and relaxation while enjoying the outdoors.
"In terms of whether the guys had fun, did they ever have fun," Eisenreich said Monday. "We had very favorable comments. It was a nice sunny day with no wind, and the guys could just cast out and fish for bass."
Seven of the 10 participating veterans were in combat and ranged from 30-83 years old.
"We had a really nice mix of young and old veterans," Eisenreich said. "What we wanted to do was generate interest across all age ranges, and as many of the wars that we could cover."
The event took place on Goodrich Lake, a small lake between Crosslake and Emily. Coordinated in conjunction with Jim Bergquist of Crow Wing Kayaks, veterans were eligible for a number of prizes donated by area businesses. Many experienced the views from a kayak for the first time.
"We tried to put them at ease as much as we could," Eisenreich said. "Once we put them in the kayaks and gave them their life jackets, they were like old pros."
Prizes were awarded based on the total length of the top three bass each angler caught. Those earning first through fourth places also received customized prizes, while the remaining participants were each awarded a veteran's challenge coin and $100 cash.
• First place-Chris Eastman, 59.5 inches. Eastman earned a new kayak, seat and life preserver, donated by Bergquist.
• Second place-Rich Moellers, 42.25 inches. Moellers was awarded an all expenses paid ice fishing trip for three, which was donated by fishing guide Preston Peters.
• Third place-Steve Fox, 35.75 inches. Fox received a fishing equipment package donated by Homeless and Wounded Warriors-MN.
The fourth place winner received two rods and reels along with an assortment of lures, which was donated by Ace Hardware of Crosslake.
Eisenreich said after the tournament, participants were treated to a chicken and rib dinner provided by American Legion Post No. 500 in Crosslake.
"Most of them said, 'I'm going to come back next year,'" Eisenreich said. "What we wanted to achieve as well was to have these fishermen go back and talk to their veteran friends about it."
Eisenreich said the event comes in the midst of the nonprofit's most successful fundraising year thus far. In addition to the fishing tournament, Eisenreich works with Bergquist to offer kayak rides on the Pine River for veterans. The organization got its start arranging beneficiary motorcycle rides and has since expanded its veterans services to include short-term financial assistance, assistance with transitional or permanent housing, referrals for mental health help, advocacy for veterans' benefits and supportive counseling.
For more photos go to https://goo.gl/6EIyKT
This story was updated to correctly identify who donated the meal served to veterans following the fishing tournament.