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As a way of recognizing the tens of thousands of volunteer hours given each year to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing by our talented and caring volunteers, PHWFF Regions recognize one outstanding volunteer each year.  We are pleased to announce that Darwin Adams has been selected as Volunteer of the Year for the Midwest Region.

Darwin Adams currently volunteers with the North Chicago PHWFF Program and has served and participated at the highest levels within The Gary Borger Chapter of Trout Unlimited as well as serving as a State and National Council Representative. Darwin is currently the President of the Illinois Council of TU and is a respected and distinguished ambassador for the sport. Darwin’s passion for the sport fuels his desire to teach and mentor. Countless Boy Scouts, Summer Camp Participants and Colleagues have gained insights, learned valuable lessons and shaped their fishing experience through Darwin’s offerings. Darwin is known to be helpful and “always in the service of others.” It was this passion to serve and the respect for those who have served, that drew Darwin to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. For many years, Darwin expressed interest in starting a program with the chapter. Time was spent with nearby programs to determine what the next steps would be. Darwin was even able to have PHWFF Volunteers Gene Kazmark and Glen Hazen from Hines, IL come to a chapter meeting and present the program. Over time, Darwin’s continued interest lead him to Pastor Bob Davis whose mutual desire to have a program put the wheels for North Chicago in motion. As a start-up, much was needed to be discussed and organized and Darwin served as a initial point of contact to facilitate discussions. From these discussions a steering committee was formed and roles and responsibilities were assigned for the program.

This is truly where Darwin began to stand out. Darwin quickly removed the organizer hat and took a lead mentor role in the program. Recognizing that with a smaller number of  volunteers to work with the vets, the group needed a way to increase this number so the program established mentor training sessions (often led by Darwin) in the evenings to bring the skill level up of all interested volunteers. This step was highly successful in tripling the amount of ready hands to assist the veteran participants with casting, fishing and fly tying and Darwin is a big part of this program. Since the North Chicago program started they now have a number of guest tiers all of whom were part of, or participated in, our Darwin-led mentor training sessions. In addition to mentor training and the time he spends with the vets, Darwin devotes a great thought in the details that go into the program and is constantly searching for unique methods to address the unique challenges that people with disabilities face. Darwin is a gifted caster and within 30 minutes of the very first time with the vets, Darwin had most of them, many in wheelchairs, casting 25 feet. He always brings a smile to the sessions and will quickly lend a helping hand when a vet might be challenged with casting, fighting a fish or getting the exact wrap on a fly.

“I am blessed to have many great volunteers in our program but have really relied on Darwin’s indomitable spirit and passion to teach to get our program up and successfully running.“Jeff Reinke Program Lead, North Chicago PHWFF