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Teaching disabled vets to fish in support of the mainstreaming process

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(l-r) Lindsay Agness, Francisco and David Agness

Dave and Lindsay Agness have shared a combined 70-plus year career in their journey together at Eastman Kodak. But beyond sharing office spaces and parking places at work, the husband/wife team are also drawn to the same favorite past time – fly fishing. Both are experienced anglers and enthusiastic advocates for the sport.

Dave re-adjusts Francisco's line

For Dave, a manager of Global Supplier relationships for Kodak’s Worldwide Information Systems Organization, his introduction to fly fishing began at 16 years of age, when his father taught him the nuances of the sport. “At 21, I became a United States Coast Guard Licensed Charter Boat Captain and guided fishing cruises on Lake Ontario and its tributaries for over 20 years,” Dave said.

Lindsay, an Information Technology Manager at Kodak, learned about fishing from her grandfather as a little girl on Honeoye Lake. She took up fly fishing in 2006, and, in her words, “there has been no looking back since.” Over the past seven years as a volunteer for numerous local fishing groups, she has taught more than 180 women how to fly fish.

Francisco admires a trout he caught with Lindsay Agness

And yet, for all of the fishing expeditions, the fishing exploits and the hundreds of trophy fish they have caught together in rivers and lakes throughout North America – the couple admits there is no time more fulfilling than the weekends they get to spend plying their craft with disabled military veterans.

As volunteers for a four-month “Fly Rod Warriors” program sponsored by OASIS Adaptive Sports (Outdoor Adventures for Sacrifice in Service), the Agness’ goal is to introduce disabled vets to the sport of fly fishing. Research shows that exposure to outdoor activities greatly enhances a disabled vet’s recovery and return to everyday life. OASIS, an organization dedicated to providing that outlet, knows there is a need.

Each year, hundreds of American soldiers return from active duty in war-torn regions with a variety of physical disabilities, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a combination of conditions (polytrauma). That’s where the Fly Rod Warriors program comes in, beginning with the classroom phase at Eastman Business Park.

For two weekends in March, EBP opens a portion of its recreational facilities to the “Fly Rod Warriors” program, where Dave and Lindsay have begun teaching a handful of disabled vets how to cast, create their own flies, rig gear and tie knots, as well as how to locate fish and how to “match the hatch.”

Upon completion of the classroom portion at EBP, the group will head outdoors for the “reel deal,” using the area’s vast network of streams and lakes to catch the big one just waiting out there. And that’s where it’s hoped some of the barriers to mainstreaming our disabled vets begin to evaporate.

From the photos of the vets who participated in the program from previous years, it’s a safe bet the Fly Rod Warriors program is having the desired impact, something Dave and Lindsay satisfyingly agree has been well-worth the effort.

“The goal of the Fly Rod Warriors is the same as those found in all OASIS programs,” said Dave. “For many returning veterans, our program provides their first exposure to recreational sports after injury, and for some, their only means of participating in such activities.”

“We want to make sure our veterans receive the instruction with the appropriate equipment and support necessary to help them become more independent not only in the sport, but also in life,” he said.

For more information on OASIS programs, visit www.oasisadaptivesports.org.

Posted in: Eastman Business Park