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The Denver Program of PHWFF held a month long rod building workshop, and both volunteers and participants shared their experiences and the great time they all had together.

Volunteer Lisa Sewald shared one of her most memorable moments from the classes.

One of the students had surgery on his elbow so he was limited in his dexterity. He was unable to finish wrapping the guides so one of the coaches jumped in to help. She finished two sections and he was so relieved and thankful.

PHWFF denver volunteer lisa sewald

For volunteer Brian Fike, the workshops were his first experience as a rod building coach.

“It was good to help guide the veteran’s who are typically thankful for the support,” Fike said. “Helping out with this class reinforced my rod building knowledge and experience.”

It is always amazing to see how how proud these veterans are of their finished rod.

phwff volunteer brian fike

Volunteer and organizer of the workshop Pat Higgins said that nine out of ten rods were completed in the class, with some of them down to the wire within the last couple minutes of the last class.

All the rods are very special. We had anywhere from a Purple Heart theme to someone using their daughter’s favorite colors. Maybe not all were works of art, but they were all works of heart.

phwff volunteer and workshop organizer pat higgins

Higgins said that watching the participants work through challanges with a coach is what the program is all about for him.

“Nothing helps me more with my disability issues than running this class,” Higgins said. “Combine that with being on the water, and that is my therapy.”

Higgins is already gearing up for an October rod building workshop, and said it is already starting to fill up.

For volunteer Cookie Hooper, she said the whole experience was so much fun.

“What a thrill to see these participants complete a fly rod in such a short amount of time,” Hooper said. “I have seen many of our builders out on the water, proudly fishing (and sometimes catching) with their hand-built rods.”

Now that we are teaching live once again, I am reminded about the importance of the comradery that is built during these classes. It’s wonderful to hear participants want to speak about their lives, their experiences, and encourage one another in an environment that is safe and where people truly understand them.

phwff volunteer cookie hooper

“Project Healing Waters should be extremely proud of the Denver rod building program,” Hooper said. “It is a great example to follow.”

For participant Dan Martinez, he wasn’t sure that he would have enough time to complete the rod.

“When they said we only had three nights to build, I thought that would be impossible.”

Martinez said that thanks to all of the coaches, and Pat Higgins, who is very knowledgeable when it comes to rod building, he was able to finish his rod in time.

“The highlight for me was when I finished the rod and the compliments I received about the colors I used in it,” Martinez said.

For volunteer Dean Millard, he said it never ceases to amaze him how quickly the participants are able to finish the rod.

“There is a lot of homework between the sessions, but the vast majority of the disabled veterans are able to handle the homework while also balancing the requirements of their daily lives,” Millard said.

Millard said the highlight for him was just being thanked by fellow veterans for the help he rendered them.

It was also volunteer Denise Thelan’s first time coaching a class, and she said that it appeared to her that having the participants build their own rods really committed them to the fishing experience.

“Not only was the rod building a highlight, but the group setting on multiple evenings made the social interaction a plus,” Thelan said.

When the participants were putting the finishing touches on their rods, they all stood back and you could just see the sense of accomplishment on all of their faces.

phwff denver volunteer denise thelan

Participant Enrique Carbajal definitely felt a huge sense of accomplishment when he finished his rod.

“It has been awhile since I started and finished a task,” Carbajal said. “Once I completed the rod I experienced tremendous satisfaction of finishing my OWN rod!”

For Carbajal, he said the biggest challenge was wrapping the guides.

“After I completed the third guide, things got a little easier. I timed myself for how long it took me for each wrap. The first took me about 30 minutes, but 10 of that was just trying to get started. By the time I got to the fourth guide, I was averaging about 10 minutes per wrap!”

Carbajal would like to thank the entire team for their help.

“Pat did an incredible job on teaching the process (show and tell) and the coaches were amazing on helping us complete the task on hand.”

It was so great to learn a new skill and make something I will be able to use for a long time! Seeing the finished rod was definitely the highlight.

phwff denver participant jon rynes

For participant Kris Stamps, he said it was a great experience and something he really enjoyed.

“It challenges you, allows creativity, and an achievable end goal,” Stamps said. “It was very rewarding and I feel very appreciative of being able to do this class.”

Overall everything with the class was great. I really enjoyed the last class when we got to finish the rod with resin. Made me really want to take it out on the water to try to catch the first fish on that rod! I am very appreciative of Project Healing Waters and all that they do for veterans. I can’t wait to be a part of another event!

phwff denver participant kris stamps

The volunteers wanted to give a resounding “THANK YOU” to organiser Pat Higgins for everything he has done with this class, and beyond.

“I would like to thank Pat Higgins for his tireless work and passion for the rod building program,” Hooper said. “He has created quite an enviable program that is so very meaningful for our participants.”

“This man puts in countless hours to see that this event is a success not only for the participants, but also for the coaches,” Thelan said. “This was my first time coaching and I felt it went very well and look forward to doing more!”

“Pat Higgins is AWESOME!” Millard exclaimed.

Higgins would like to thank his awesome coaches.

“Lisa, Dave, Brian, Cookie, Lee, Denise, Jonathan, Dean, Jim, Ted, Nancy and Harry, because I could not do this without them!”

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