Project Healing Waters

Local Nonprofits Team Up To Benefit Valley Veterans

Posted: September 24, 2013

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and the Massanutten Chapter of Trout Unlimited have paired up to provide services to area veterans. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
Local organizers Bill Cartwright and Bob Holloway put stock in fly fishing as a means to boost morale after veterans return. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
As a Vietnam veteran, Bill Cartwright understands why a program such as Project Healing Waters would benefit soldiers returning to the area.

“The suicide rate [of veterans] is so bloody high, because these guys have been in tour after tour after tour,” he said. “When they’re discharged from that team and put in the hospital or in the outpatient clinic, they have no relationships; they’re buddies are gone.”

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a nationwide nonprofit organization, helps disabled service members and veterans rehabilitate, both physically and mentally, by providing a positive environment to fly fish with others in similar situations.

“[It] gives them courage in their life again,” said Cartwright, who is the outgoing president of the Massanutten chapter of Trout Unlimited — a nationwide nonprofit that works to conserve, protect and restore America’s waters.

PHW contacted the local TU chapter and asked for help starting a new program in the Valley. Cartwright, of Harrisonburg, is the leader of that partnership’s project; Massanutten resident Bob Holloway is also helping to get it off the ground.

About a year ago, Holloway went to a PHW training session on the Chesapeake Bay after learning about the nonprofit and wanting to help. He then realized that Cartwright, who he knew from the Massanutten TU chapter — Holloway was on the board — was working to set up a local PHW program.

“When I found out he was involved, I said, ‘I’ve done some training; let’s partner,’ ” Holloway said.

The budding local program is “sort of the guinea pig” for testing the collaboration between the two nonprofits, Cartwright said.

However, this is not the first time the Massanutten TU chapter has worked with Project Healing Waters. Every year, the chapter helps make possible the Mossy Creek Invitational, a national fundraising event held every spring on the creek in Bridgewater.

Martha Kleder, director of donor and media relations for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, said the local TU chapter has been “absolutely phenomenal.”

About 20 to 25 veterans are currently involved in the new Project Healing Waters Harrisonburg/Staunton program, she said, which is a “very good start.”

The program began about three months ago and will really get underway with fly-tying classes planned to be held at James Madison University starting in October.

The group will also learn about casting, build rods and go on fly-fishing outings, weather permitting.

Cartwright is hoping some of the veterans at two local outpatient facilities — the Harrisonburg Contract Outpatient Clinic on South High Street and the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Staunton — will join the program.

Although Cartwright and Holloway can’t contact veterans directly due to privacy laws, they’re hoping the vets will make their way to the program.

“When I came home from ’Nam, I was in bad shape myself, and I know what these guys are going through,” Cartwright said. “If they want to go [fishing] every other day, I’ll take them.”

According to him, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that more than 16,000 veterans in the area could benefit from the program.

“The vets have done so much for this country,” said Holloway, who has not served in the military himself. “I’m 65; I know what it was like for a lot of the vets that came back from Vietnam. It wasn’t pretty. I don’t want that to happen to any of the current vets that are coming back.”

For more information about joining the program or volunteering with it, contact Cartwright at

To learn about the Massanutten TU chapter’s involvement with Project Healing Waters and its other local projects, visit its website at

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or

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