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Hope floats

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Floating on a lake rather than a cloud, the Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers are making fishing dreams a reality for wounded veterans.

Twenty-five club members have spent nearly 300 hours crafting a wooden boat for Project Healing Waters.

The program provides basic fly-fishing, casting, tying and rod-building classes and clinics for wounded and injured military personnel.

Dean Childs, vice president of Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers, saw a Healing Waters presentation four years ago by an Army captain who had a difficult time dealing with his loss. The man’s testimony on how the program changed his life sold Childs on the Healing Waters program and he recruited local fly fishers to the cause.

Building beginnings
Before building the boat, club members supported Healing Waters by making 300 fly-tying tool kits worth $115 each. They’ve donated materials and magazines for military hospitals, as well.
When considering building the boat, club president Cliff Schleusner said the project was an easy sell to members.

The club recruited Bill Kindler who has built and donated 15 boats for charitable causes.

He and Childs have led teams working in two, four-hour shifts, two to four days a week.

“All these people are committed to the cause,” Kindler said.

“And let’s face it, boat building is fun.”

McClanahan Lumber in Forks donated the cedar lumber and several other local companies gave discounts on wood and supplies.

“Every time someone hears something about the boat, they want to donate or help out in some way,” Childs said.

Turning over in their favor
The boat’s materials cost the club about $1,600, Childs said.

“Without the name of Project Healing Waters attached, it could sell for $7,000-$10,000,” he said.

“When people hear the story, it could go for a lot more.”

Three wounded soldiers from Fort Lewis have worked on the boat.

Four more soldiers are scheduled to work on it before it is finished early this summer. 

Project Healing Waters might use the boat for:
• Wounded veterans’ fishing trips
• Display at fishing shows to attract attention to the program
• Financing programs after selling it.

Childs said everyone who has worked on the boat will be given an opportunity to row it before it goes to Healing Waters.

In the coming weeks, club members will epoxy the boat’s bottom and layer it with fiberglass. 

Before the boat is finished, club members will hold their annual Project Healing Waters fishing day where they will give lessons, help the veterans fish and treat them to a barbecue.

Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers
The club has 65 members from Sequim and Port Angeles.

The boat’s construction is being done in Childs’ shop, where he used to run a fly-tying tool factory. Now he hosts Thursday night fly-tying sessions there for club members and houses what might be the largest fly-fishing library on the peninsula.

Schleusner said the group sponsors several other endeavors along with Project Healing Waters.

• Helping at Kids Derby, April 24 in Port Angeles
• Buying rods and reels for children, 45 so far this year
• Tying flies for Kids Fest in Port Angeles
• Fishing demonstrations for Camp Fire USA
• Hosting a booth at the Clallam County Fair

Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers meets at 7 p.m. the first Monday each month in the Loomis Log Cabin in Lincoln Park in Port Angeles. More information on the club is at www.opff.org.
Project Healing Waters has chapters in every state. More information is at www.projecthealingwaters.org.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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