Silverthorne Pavilion to host Project Healing Waters fundraiser on Friday night
Though he doesn’t have a military background himself or any direct connection to service members, Jim Buckler has seen in person just how much fly fishing trips can help rehabilitate injured veterans.
Buckler, the owner of Cutthroat Anglers in Silverthorne, recalls several stories over the six years he’s helped to host Summit County expeditions for the nationwide Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing program. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps support disabled military personnel by way of two-and-a-half day fishing trips across the country.
“The difference between day one and day three can be phenomenal,” Buckler said at his Silverthorne shop on Thursday, a day before the sixth annual Fly Fishing Film Tour event at the Silverthorne Town Pavillion on Friday. The event’s silent auction will begin at 5 p.m., featuring 75-80 items worth around $50,000 in total, ranging from $10 local restaurant gift cards to trips to Alaska. The event annually is one of the main fundraisers for Summit County’s local Project Healing Waters trips.
Thinking back, Buckler recalls the experience of a veteran named Garrett. A former gang member in East Los Angeles, Garrett underwent trauma while serving in the military. Buckler said he learned how Garrett had PTSD stemming from several times he was shot at while holding position on a roof. Despite his tentativeness heading into the event, Buckler said Garrett’s approach to the event changed on the first day when he caught a 28-inch rainbow trout.
“One of the most beautiful fish I’d ever seen,” Buckler said. “And I let him go, and it was just, like, an epiphany for him. He couldn’t believe it. And that night the counselor went around to all of the cabins to see how the day went, and he got to Garrett’s cabin and he talked nonstop for 45 minutes. It’s just kind of amazing.”
Buckler also points to another fishing experience for a veteran when speaking to the power of programs like Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing can have on individual veterans. The veteran was a retired lieutenant colonel who served for more than three decades. Describing the veteran as having maybe the most serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder he’d ever seen, Buckler noticed how, at the start of the week, the veteran’s PTSD was quickly and powerfully triggered by something as simple as his shop’s cash register opening. The veteran was so reserved that he barely spoke up. But by the end of the second day, Buckler said the veteran was offering up one high-five and hug after another after learning how to fly fish.
“Just the fact these soldiers get in the water,” Buckler said, “it’s a beautiful environment, to catch beautiful fish, and with other vets around them who can relate to what they’ve been through, I think it’s part of the magic.”
Friday’s fundraising event at the Silverthorne Pavilion will go toward the two to three fly fishing trips Cutthroat Anglers, Breckenridge Outfitters and Mountain Angler in Breckenridge have helped to locally organize each year since 2010. Buckler estimates that since then, about 300 veterans have been helped in Summit County as part of the program. Through the years, he estimates more than $150,000 total has been raised, topping out at $42,000 last year. The fundraising helps to outfit each veteran with about $300 in fly fishing gear they are able to keep.
As for Friday night’s fundraiser, Buckler said he expects about 250 people to attend, including a growing contingent from the Front Range eager to see the fly fishing films, as Summit County is one of the film tour’s first stops across the country. For more information on the movies that will be shown, visit FlyFilmTour.com/Watch-Trailers.
Tickets for the event will be available for $12 with pre-event purchase from Cutthroat Anglers, Mountain Angler or Breckenridge Outfitters. Tickets purchased at the door will be $15.
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