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OUTDOOR HEROES

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Douglas Dear - Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, LaPlata, MD

An advocate for the healing effects of fly fishing on wounded soldiers

While stopping by his local fly-fishing shop in 2007, Douglas Dear heard about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), an organization helping disabled and wounded veterans and active-duty soldiers rehabilitate both physically and emotionally through fly fishing. The organization was looking for a spot to host an event. Douglas got in touch with the PHWFF and offered his farm's private trout stream for their next outing. "My grandfather was a West Point grad and served in World War II so I've always had the utmost respect for the military," says Douglas.

Founded in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the help of Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers, PHWFF assists in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of military personnel through fly fishing and fly tying. The organization partners with federations across the country to offer local, ongoing support to area soldiers. "Our program is inclusive rather than exclusive. Naturally, many of our participants were wounded or injured in war, but others were hurt while on active duty at base camps or at home," says Ed Nicholson, founder of PHWFF. Many participants also suffer from post-traumatic shock, and the program is particularly effective in lessening their emotional turmoil.

"It didn't take me long after first meeting Douglas to ask him to be on our board of directors and eventually to be chairman of the board," says Ed. "He takes an active and personal interest in the wounded warriors. He's kind, giving and altruistic beyond what you'd expect for the chairman of any board."

The program has reached over 2,000 soldiers since its start. At this year's Fly Tie Event, PHWFF's fifth annual fly fishing competition held at Dear's farm, a PHWFF participant bravely spoke about losing his arm while on active duty. Everyone at the dinner was moved by the impact the program had on one soldier including Douglas. "Here was a guy who was severely depressed. When he first started with us, he couldn't tie a fly. Once he figured it out, he started challenging himself to try other things. Now he tells us there isn't anything he can't do with one hand."

"Douglas has been critical to helping our participants regain confidence and a sense of accomplishment. With his commitment we've spread to over 100 programs in the US and Canada since its start," says Ed. "This year we put a bronze plate up by Douglas' stream his water is now the home waters of Project Healing."

For more information about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, please visit projecthealingwaters.org.