VETS, FISH AND …

Happy June. It’s raining today and the Y is buzzing with activities as EVERYONE is here right now.  I love the life that a rainy summer day brings to the Y.

Last week we held our 13th annual Vet’s Fishing Tournament at YMCA Camp Cormorant. I was able to attend this event last year in the first couple of days on the job.  Hard to believe that a year has gone by already. The tournament, sponsored by FM Walleyes, Muskies Inc., and Scheels, along with support from Let’s Go Fishing, is held to support our vets and give them a day on the lake fishing and storytelling. This year we had nearly 50 vets from the FM and Lisbon areas come and participate.

So a year ago, I showed up at this event thinking that I was going to see a bunch of vets take a bunch of kids out onto the lake for the day. You know, the word “Young” is in our name after all. Boy, was I wrong. Each year, the fishing community comes together to get the vets out on the lake in private boats and pontoons. Groups of two and three vets are on each boat and some of these have been together all 13 years. This event has grown a life of its own. When we were talking with the leaders from the VA, the vets start to ask before Christmas when they can sign up to go. They are excited just getting off of the bus.

Why do events likes these matter at the Y?

First, they meet our mission of being “for all.” Did you know that the YMCA is a founding organization for the USO, that we have YMCAs on military bases around the world called the Armed Services YMCA, and that we were one of the first organizations behind the front lines of WWI providing aid and comfort to our young men and women so that they had something that looked like home?

Second, we have a calling to be socially responsible. Honoring our vets is just a step in the right direction to help make our community stronger.  We had vets from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, and the Iraq wars all mingling together and sharing time and laughs with those that have seen what they have seen and experienced what they have experienced. Our volunteers step to the plate to share those stories as well. Stronger together, weaker apart is one of my favorite sayings. I think it is true here as well.

And lastly, we live in a world of barriers. Our electronics cause this along with other societal issues. Think about your porch. Which way is it facing? In the past your porch was on the front of your house so you could see your neighbors. Today, they are in the back facing away from the community. Nothing wrong with this but it is just harder to get connected. Add a little speed to your day and you can quickly see why people are not as connected as in the past. By bringing our vets, volunteers, and the YMCA together for a day of fishing, we are breaking those barriers down. I can tell you I didn’t see many faces buried into cell phones during the trip. People were smiling, talking and engaged. That is what we are all about.

So why does the Vet’s Fishing Tournament matter? I think the examples that I have given tell the story. But if you need one more, here it is. I got talking to a family who had only heard about the event the day before on the radio. They had nothing on their busy schedule so they came on out with their pontoon and had a group of vets out for the day. Their son, who was around 10 years old, was wide eyed at the end of the day. The dad told me that they had no idea about this and they were for sure coming back next year because of the connections made. That is what this is all about.

For those that have served our country, thank you!

See you at the Y!

Steve Smith, President