A national veterans organization uses fishing events to give back to people who put their lives on the line for their country.
Paralyzed Veterans of America are hosting events across the country — including last weekend in Kuttawa at the Bluegrass Bass Bash — giving crippled veterans and civilians the chance to win cash prizes for their catches.
Jeff Thompson, Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Vets for Vets, helped gather volunteers and boats. He says the Lyon department has been supporting KIPVA for many years.
“The Port of Kuttawa Marina helped build a specially designed dock for our power wheelchair veterans,” Thompson said. “He was paid out of pocket. It’s quite special.
Art Hunt has been a regular tournament angler since 2007. He says fishing has helped him get out into the wild and the ACP mission has inspired him.
“You like to see people succeed who don’t have much of a chance to succeed [succeed]”, Hunt said. “[Some of these disabled veterans] don’t get the chance to go outside as much as they would like. Some of them are quadriplegics and don’t have full use of their hands and arms, but they try anyway. It pushes me to do better and not to give up.
Roy Gray is president of KIPVA and a veteran of the United States Navy. Prior to joining the PVA in 2010, Gray served as a jet mechanic at the Naval Air Weapons Station in China Lake California. He and his unit tested explosives and aircraft in the Southern California desert.
After losing his leg to a gunshot wound, Gray suffered from depression. An invitation to watch a sledge hockey game during his recovery changed things and inspired his participation in sports that fuel his work with the PVA now.
“Being part of the PVA gives me the opportunity to not only help myself, but to help others,” Gray said. “That’s what it’s all about, they came to serve and now I’ve come to serve them. I want to let them know that life is not over.
Dozens of volunteers and veterans – including US Navy veterinarian Christine Ledger – fished in the early morning hours at Kuttawa Harbor Marina on Saturday. Ledger is immobilized and leans on an electric wheelchair.
Ledger, an Indiana native, serves on the KIPVA board of directors. Ledger feels empowered by the volunteers who work with the organization.
“It’s amazing to see these guys charging at the veterans,” Ledger said. “It gives me goosebumps and makes me want to go back to [to the military]. I would come back without hesitating.
Jerry Richardson volunteers with the US Military Vets Motorcycle Club in Salem, Indiana. He traveled to Kuttawa to help disabled veterans and civilians get into boats at the event.
“It was eye-opening,” Richardson said. “The most rewarding part of it all is seeing the smiles on all the veterans’ faces. The weather may be bad, but if they have a smile on their face, it’s worth it.
Boats were loaned by people from western Kentucky and other areas. Volunteers also helped distribute food, hooks and fishing nets. Volunteer Brian Gardipee, who moved to Kuttawa two years ago from Michigan, says he loves seeing attendees having fun.
“(PVA) offers so much to veterans,” Gardipee said. “It’s not just fishing, but also other sports. It’s a great way to give back.
Money received from donations and registration fees went towards disaster relief efforts for the Dec. 10 tornadoes.