By Jillian Driessen
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada (PHWFFC) provides an opportunity for wounded, injured, and disabled Canadian Forces members to participate in Fly Fishing events. It’s a rehabilitation program that mostly works on an outpatient basis, offering day trips to fly fishing locations across Canada. Participants are given the opportunity to learn basic fly fishing, improve their fly fishing, or adapt to a new way of fly fishing.
Kerry Pitt, the director of PHWFFC says the goal of PHWFFC is to see the person beneath the uniform.
“Many of us forget that our Canadian Soldiers are human beings, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters,” says Pitt. “They have said that they will stand between my family and any danger from outside and even inside our country. What do you say to these folks? I can’t think of anything adequate–but PHWFFC will show them that we are here for them as well. Just phone and say “Hi”, drop us an e-mail, send us a letter; we will do what ever it takes to get them out on the water. PHWFFC is much more than fishing; it’s about giving folks a chance to move their focus away from day to day “stuff” and put it on everything that is beautiful on the water.”
PHWFFC works in alliance with Operational Stress Injury Social Support as well as Integrated Personnel Support Centre and Fly Fishing clubs across the country to facilitate this program. Through the dedication of these organizations and the tireless efforts of volunteers, clients are taught basic fly-casting and fly-tying skills. PHWFFC provides all materials and equipment for their participants. Adaptive devices are also provided as needed. Participants pay no travel costs or fees.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada places emphasis on supporting both past and present Canadian Forces members but welcomes various other groups as well. With a doctor‘s or counsellor’s referral, members from the RCMP, Canadian Police Members, EMS, and Emergency Service Employees can also participate. PHWFFC also opens its doors to individuals living with brain trauma. The organization has various volunteers who make all this possible. Experienced fly fishers, professional fishers, and fishing guides make the activity itself possible. There is always a need for more volunteers for transportation and assistance because PHWFFC works mainly through day trips from the hospital.
“The goal of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada is to offer rehabilitation through gaining, restoring, or maintaining an appreciation of the outdoors,” says Pitt. “Through strong programming and quality outdoor sites, PHWFFC is sure to be as successful as its sister chapter in the United States. The benefits of outdoor activities and of community involvement are paramount in the healing process and PHWFFC focuses on this aspect of the healing and rehabilitation process by providing our clients with opportunities that might not have been available to them otherwise.”
Pitt says the organization began with a goal to bring Fly Fishing to CFB Edmonton. Upon realizing the great effort it would take to create a Fly Fishing organization in Edmonton alone, he knew the extra effort to go national was not too far off. He and his board (a mix of Canadian Forces members, both retired and active, and civilians alike) share a passion for fishing and understand that there is a benefit and healing quality to the sport. They have worked tirelessly to make this happen.
“I did not know if I was man enough to actually do something like this, like Project Healing Waters Canada, but I took it one letter at a time,” says Pitt. “Sgt. Ray Fairweather, the Vice President, provides the needed energy and direction that makes all this possible. Together with our regional directors and involved volunteers, this is sure to remain successful.”
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada has sponsors, supporters, and alliances with numerous companies and organizations across the country. It has been in existence since 2009 and registered as a charity since 2010. According to Pitt, PHWFFC plans to be around for “as long as we are needed.” They offer a contact for most provinces (New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia) and more contact information is available on their website: projecthealingwaters.ca.