SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Lew’s provided American Hero rod and reel combos to the 72 wounded warriors and disabled veterans who participated in the 2014 Reel American Heroes Foundation Tournament, appropriately held recently on the Potomac River near historic stretches not far from the nation’s capital.
Bassmaster Elite Series pros Tim Horton, Shaw Grigsby, Paul Elias, John Crews and Michael Simonton attended in support.
The annual tournament is the signature event for the Reel American Heroes Foundation (RAHF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all-volunteer organization founded and headed by Ron DeFreitas, executive director, for the purpose of thanking America’s wounded warriors and disabled veterans for their military service.
“This was a truly humbling experience and an amazing event,” said Gary Remensnyder, Lew’s president. “This must be the largest veterans’ fishing tournament in the country and I can’t imagine one being any more organized or appreciated than what I’ve witnessed here. I’m pleased to have attended and for Lew’s to be involved like we are with our products and new tournament support trailer.”
Lew’s presented the armed forces participants with recently introduced American Hero spinning rod and reel combinations. The Lew’s American Hero program, launched in 2013 to assist veterans’ organizations that include fishing among their activities, originally consisted only of rods. Spinning and baitcast rod and reel combos were added to the American Hero lineup during the fishing industry’s annual ICAST show held last month.
“The rods, reels and other fishing items are undoubtedly gifts that just keep on giving,” DeFreitas commented. “Fishing is wonderful therapy for this group and is something we encourage our participants to continue to do with family and friends for the rest of their lives.
“For Lew’s to step up and help with a donation of this magnitude is huge for our program. Every penny we raise goes right back into what we do … no one here receives any salary or other type of payment. We’re proud to be a beneficiary of the Lew’s American Hero project.”
RAHF tournament anglers come from invitations sent by the foundation to military hospitals in and around Maryland and Virginia, including Walter Reed, Marine Corps Base Quantico and Fort Belvoir. This year’s tournament also had anglers from Fort Bragg, N.C.
Among them was Silver Star Medal recipient Christian Brown. A Marine veteran, Brown lost both legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan just a few days after his heroic actions during a foot patrol encounter involving his squad in 2011.
The annual fishing tournament, the foundation’s fourth such event, was held Aug. 2 at Hope Springs Marina in Stafford, Va.
Fishing show hosts Kim and Danny Stricker of the “Hook n’ Look” television series were also in attendance and filmed a segment for their show.
“We tip our hats to all celebrities, pros and industry officials who support veterans fishing programs like this, regardless of their rod and reel choices,” Remensnyder added.