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OUTDOOR HEROES

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Bonnie Holding - Casting for Recovery

Guiding breast cancer survivors to a place of empowerment

Bonnie Holding has spent most of her life helping others enjoy the outdoors. A Master Maine Guide in the Stratton, Maine, area specializing in fly-fishing instruction for over 20 years, she was named one of North America's top guides by Outdoor Life in 2005. Over 11 years ago, Bonnie learned about Casting for Recovery (CFR), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and supporting women who have or have had breast cancer.

It might seem to most people that fly fishing and breast cancer treatment have no connection, but to Bonnie, the connection is a natural one-and a meaningful way to use her teaching skills. She initiated the first-annual Maine-based CFR retreat and has worked tirelessly as a program coordinator and retreat leader ever since.

Bonnie's big smile and open manner are immediately engaging. She watches, helps and encourages women as they use the experience of fly fishing and time spent in the outdoors to heal mind, body and spirit. During the two-and-a-half-day program, breast cancer survivors learn to tie flies and fly cast, get entomology lessons and work with medical professionals and psychosocial therapists to move from a place of fear to one of empowerment. However, Bonnie will tell you that the experience is all about fly fishing while not at all about fly fishing. "It's about being with a group of women who are going through exactly what you are going through."

Thanks to Bonnie's determined efforts as a fundraiser, activist, leader and caring individual, dozens of women and their families have found new hope and confidence. Many also have made new friends and discovered the value of sharing their experience with others. In this way, entire communities benefit from Bonnie's work. Bonnie calls her efforts "human conservation" because she's helping to protect women, who she considers a most valuable natural resource.

For more information about the Casting for Recovery, please visit www.castingforrecovery.org.