George GainesRegional Coordinator, National Capital

George’s journey to his present position as Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF) National Capital Regional Coordinator and past Member of the Board of Trustees began with a chance phone call just over 10 years ago. Some guy (he turned out to be a retired Navy Captain) who was a patient at Walter Reed Hospital, was calling the National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited (NCC-TU) looking for some help.

He was very concerned about the injured and disabled active military patients at the Hospital and wanted help to “take them fishing.” He said, “They really need to get out of here and go fishing.” George, who had worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for over 35 years then, got the call because he was the current President of the NCC-TU. He remembers that it took the caller, PHWFF Founder Ed Nicholson, about two minutes to get him to say “Yes Sir, you bet we’ll help.” So NCC-TU became the sponsor of the Walter Reed group that developed into the first PHWFF local program, and for a year and a half it provided the operating funds that launched PHWFF. George became the first PHWFF Treasurer and a Member of the original Board of Trustees.

Ironically, George, who had worked with NIH’s National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, had served as a volunteer at Walter Reed Hospital and had tried quite unsuccessfully to take some patients fishing. It took the Captain’s refusal to take no for an answer that got the organization established. George has said, “I don’t think anyone other than Ed could have made it happen.”

Born and raised in Louisiana, George came to Washington, DC at age 16 to be a Page in the U.S. House of Representatives. His keen interest in politics led him through a series of senior political positions in the Nation’s Capital that ranged from Capitol Hill jobs, to Assistant to DC’s first Mayor, and eventually to being a member of the White House Staff. That experience led to his 43-year career handling Congressional Relations and liaison to outside organizations at NIH. Now retired, but as busy as he was before he became a volunteer, George is convinced that getting involved with PHWFF was about the best and most important thing that has ever happened to him. When asked why he spends so much time working with PHWFF, his response is “I’ll stop the day I don’t get a whole lot more out of it than I could ever give to it. I’ll never be able to repay what it has given me.”