The Wounded Warrior Anglers will hold its 2nd Annual "Redfish Poker" Fishing Championship Saturday, May 24, at Olde Fish House Marina. At 7 p.m., the group will raffle off a 2014, 21-foot, NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay boat.
Wounded Warrior Anglers was founded by David Souders and his wife Judy in 2012. Wounded Warrior Anglers describes its mission as: "... to help rehabilitate the mind, body, & soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service. Our secondary missions are to actively support the wounded warrior's caregiver and their immediate family."
Souders' interest in helping veterans began with his work with Marines Helping Marines, a non-profit organization providing support for injured Marine Corps personnel.
"We basically worked with every branch of the service," David Souders said. "Then I hurt my knees in 2008 and went through a series of hardships and surgeries."
Souders had additional complications where he needed follow-up surgeries and all this pain brought back some very bad memories later identified as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). PTSD is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred.
"With all these mental issues along with rather serious financial issues, to be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to be here any more," David Souders said. "I was seeing a therapist at the time and she suggested I find something to do that I enjoyed. As a kid, other than playing sports, I enjoyed fishing. So I started fishing again almost every day and every weekend at Rehoboth Beach inlet in Delaware."
"Once David started fishing, what I saw in David was peace," Judy Souders said. "So I was happy he had found something that seemed to be working for him."
"The start of reaching out to veterans began when we moved to this area and we were invited to a Wounded Warriors Project event at Lighthouse Point in the Fort Lauderdale area," David Souders said. "It was a great event but the only thing we didn't like was that as a wounded warrior I was allowed to participate, but Judy as a caregiver, was not. When we were on our way back home, we talked about that and thought if we were going to start something like a Wounded Warriors Project, what would we do different. The one thing we decided on was that the whole family should be included, spouses and even the children not just the warrior."
Once David and Judy Souders made the decision, things moved along rather quickly. On June 7, 2012, the Souders established Wounded Warrior Angler's Inc., and held their first event less than a month later on June 30. Since that time they have held numerous large events they call "retreats," more than 60 "outings" involving just a few veterans at a time, and seven or eight tournaments. Today they have helped more than 500 veterans, plus their care givers and children.
"I truly am amazed at where we're at," David Souders said. "I really can't believe how far we've come in such a short time. I would have been pleased if we had 40 or 50 members and would have been pleased if we had raised maybe $10,000 or $12,000 a year. But as Judy always says, 'The gods have smiled upon us' and made it possible for us to help as many people as we do. We have things that just pop up, like the contribution and participation of the International Seafarers Union who showed up out of the blue."
The NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay boat to be raffled has a magic tilt trailer and added features such as stainless steel props, 77 bow seat base, swim platform with a ladder, single battery switch and two gunnel rod holders. The boat, motor and trailer package is valued at approximately $39,627.
This boat, like the first one auctioned, is courtesy of Fort Myers Marine owner Chuck Calkins.
The 2nd Annual "Redfish Poker" Fishing Championship Tournament will include a barbecue, 50/50 raffles, a silent auction, Chinese auction and live entertainment.
Those who wish to enter the tournament (you can enter up until 6 p.m., Friday, May 23) can do so at 2ndAnnualRedfishPoker.eventbrite.com.
Raffle tickets for the NauticStar will be sold up until the drawing at 7 p.m. at Olde Fish House Marina, Matlacha.