The 7th Annual Battle at Boxwood saw Project Healing Waters veterans, local fishing guides, and plenty of big fish. The event held Saturday July 22, included more than 20 veterans enjoy friendly competition. Rainbows, cutthroat, and browns up to 28-inches wer caught while everybody enjoyed a perfect, sunny day at Boxwood Gulch in Shawnee, CO.
This is a fantastic event bringing 20 vets out to this gorgeous property here at Boxwood Gulch,” said Kim Payne, volunteer organizer for the event. “The opportunities Project Healing Waters creates for these great folks is amazing. Their mission is near and dear to my heart as my brother-in-law was a cobra pilot for the Marine Corps. The folks here at Boxwood Gulch donate their ranch, plus guides donate their time, which truly makes this a rewarding event. Last year we raised $75,000 for the organization—so they can continue to do great things.”
On the water, veteran Brian Gilba kicked off the event with a nice cutthroat while fishing with his side kick, a St. Bernard named Zoe. The action was non-stop as some loud hoots from upriver pulled the sizeable media contingent to see Erik Phillips and guide John Keefover team up for back-to-back hookups with a couple quality rainbows running 18 to 20 inches.
On one of the many side channels of the North Fork of the South Platte at Boxwood, Jeremy Hamilton and his veteran friend Jery Freeman hooked a powerful rainbow as well. In a short interview after releasing the fish, Jery compared the feeling of getting on the river, fighting the rainbow, and landing it to, well, you know. What a guy—you have to love the enthusiasm.
Tom Woodring was also on the water snapping photos and enjoying the friendly competition. The action continued with each veteran and guide teaming up for photo-worthy fish throughout the entire three miles of private riverfront.
Time seemed to stop when we rounded the corner to look for more veterans having a blast on the water. Tate Cunningham, another veteran made waves with a 26- to 27-inch rainbow as he fought the trout like a champion. He held his fly rod high, with a huge bend, and the obvious trophy rainbow slashed at the surface. His guide made a sweeping grab with the net and it was photo time. Wow, anybody would be ecstatic about a catch like that and Tate was overjoyed.
After about three hours of the veterans catching and releasing quality trout, it was time for lunch. Bruce Conrardy of the All American Beef Battalion was serving up steaks, potatoes and even Rocky Mountain Oysters. “We are a volunteer operation,”explained Conrardy. “As we travel the country teaming up with veteran organizations like Project Healing Waters to organize and sponsor steak meals, entertainment, programs, meetings, and projects with service members and their families.
“We encourage and assist them in any reasonable manner and foster among the people of the United States an appreciation, respect, and honor for our Military Service Members whose sacrifices have and will continue to make our freedom possible, “added Conrardy. “We operate on contributions made to our organization, The All American Beef Battalion out of Ashland, KS.”
During lunch, Project Healing Waters President and CEO Todd Desgrosseilliers addressed the crowd. He reiterated the goals and mission of Project Healing Waters.“Project Healing Waters is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities including education and outings,” said Desgrosseilliers. “We work to help the healing process with the help of volunteers, people like you,” added Todd. “We teach fly fishing, from fly tying, to casting, to rod building and to come full circle, help the servicemen catch a fish on that fly they tied and on the rod they built. Educating the veterans on all things fly fishing, helps the disabled veterans heal and learn a new sport.”
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in the State of Maryland. It’s a dependent on tax-deductible, charitable donations and the help of numerous volunteers to meet the educational, equipment, transportation, and related needs of its participants. Once you see one of the organizations events, you will be hooked too.
After lunch, it was back on the water. The volunteers, veterans, and organizers enjoyed the afternoon action as Boxwood Gulch’s trout didn’t disappoint for the Battle at Boxwood. The 7th annual Battle at Boxwood surpassed last year’s totals with more than $75,000 dollars raised for Project Healing Waters.