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Giving Back: the Purpose that Completes Life
REGION -- Most of us have heard the often-used term “giving back,” in reference to offering resources in return for some kind of success or good fortune in life.
Take, for instance, the successful business person that makes it big but feels that something is missing -- their life just isn’t complete. They do something or donate to a cause that helps the general public in some way, in order to return their good fortune in life.
This dilemma doesn’t limit itself to the successful; anyone can be afflicted with the same conundrum. The whole process can be started with a simple question like, “What is my purpose in life?”
Volunteering time or donating resources to good causes fills this void.
Dan Thrall, owner of Antlers, Anglers & Adventures Guide Service (antlersnanglers.com) in Bethel knows what giving back to the community means. Thrall has been involved in several projects, volunteering his time to a number of good causes.
Thrall has been guiding for two years now, but volunteered his time well before starting his guide service. I met Mr. Thrall several years ago at an Androscoggin River float-stocking project. Volunteers crowded the banks of the river at the launch in Gilead to assist the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, Trout Unlimited, Upper Andro Anglers Alliance, and members of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W) in introducing thousands of rainbow and brown trout into the river system.
Each year after that, Thrall has helped by offering his time to assist with the annual float-stocking project on the river. Thrall uses his hand-made, wooden drift boat to distribute hatchery trout along the length of the Androscoggin River.
DIF&W biologists have determined that this float-stocking method gives hatchery trout a better chance to survive in the river system. In the past a large tube from the hatchery truck bed poured young trout into the river in one specific location making survival difficult.
Hatchery fish initially become confused and easy prey for eagles, otters, and predatory fish when they are released in only one location. Float stocking disperses the little fish to numerous locations along the river, avoiding the predator problem.
Project Healing Waters
The Rapid River starts at Middle Dam on the southwest shore of Lower Richardson Lake, pouring excess lake water into the Pond in the River, and then flows to Cupsuptic Lake. Between the large bodies of water, the river courses over and around an immense network of huge boulders that offer trophy brook trout and landlocked salmon plenty of cooling sanctuary.
Last year, I attended a Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing event on the Rapid River to help wounded veterans get back into fly fishing. When I walked into the camp on the banks of the river Mr. Thrall’s familiar voice greeted me.
“William,” called Thrall, “how are you doing?”
After the usual introductions and catching up, I asked Thrall why he decided to travel all the way into this remote location to volunteer.
Thrall said, “I appreciate those military members that have served to keep our country safe and free…I never got to go into the military myself, so I figure this is a way I can give a little something back.”
Over the course of the next few days, Thrall and numerous volunteers assisted seven veterans with various injuries. Most of the injured veterans had fished with a fly rod before, but one fellow happened to be new to the sport. After a little coaching, he learned to cast well enough to catch a few smallmouth bass and two nice salmon.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. (PHWFF) partners with the Veteran’s Administration and fly fishing oriented organizations like Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers to serve veterans with disabilities. The mission statement for this non-profit group reads: Assisting in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings.
Working with these injured veterans, and helping the other volunteers like Maine guide Thrall, enables a person to truly give something back to their community. One wheelchair bound veteran, John Rogers, Jr. summed it all up with one statement.
Rogers said, “My life is full of stress. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be a chore; my back hurts all the time, but I push myself through the pain because I’ve done it before. But the thought of that pain and stress is always on my mind throughout the day. Then I get out on the water here and start casting a line. My mind focuses on catching a fish, and I suddenly realize that I have forgotten all about my stress and pain. The sound of the moving river and the fly rod calm me and give me a little relief from all of it.”
To volunteer or donate, visit the PHWFF website at projecthealingwaters.org. Helping injured veterans catch fish on a fly rod heals both physically and spiritually.
Enter this computer link to view a video essay of the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing event last year at the Rapid River by Boston Globe staff photographer Bill Greene at: http://bcove.me/zehird5u.