Elfin Cove residents come together to host a once-in-a-lifetime experience for veterans

Veterans Jake Taylor and Dave Williams with their halibut haul off Elfin Cove, Alaska. For more photos, visit: http://bit.ly/2vJaecH

Veterans Jake Taylor and Dave Williams with their halibut haul off Elfin Cove, Alaska.
For more photos, visit: http://bit.ly/2vJaecH

ELFIN COVE, ALASKA (Sept. 7, 2017) – Thanks to Elfin Cove residents and the national nonprofit Hope For The Warriors and its Outdoor Adventures program, two combat wounded veterans and their caregivers recently participated in a once-in-a-lifetime, five-day Alaskan fishing trip.

Catching over 500 pounds of fish, including salmon, halibut, and rockfish, not only did this trip secure future food for the families but it also provided relaxation and camaraderie for the veterans and their caregivers.

Hope For The Warriors’ Outdoor Adventures program provides adaptive opportunities for wounded heroes to participate in sporting activities in the great outdoors. Service members, who previously embraced an outdoors lifestyle, as well as those new to traditional outdoor sports, are introduced to recreational opportunities on the road to recovery.

The group, along with Hope For The Warriors Director of Outdoor Adventure and retired Marine Ken Sutherby, flew into Juneau and then took a four-hour ferry to Elfin Cove, a small fishing community located on Chichagof Island. With approximately 30 fulltime residents, the cove comes to life during spring and summer due to the tremendous runs of ocean-bright salmon.

Wanting to give back to military members, noting their service has allowed her children to follow their dreams, local commercial fisherwoman, Debra Page sprang into action rallying her fellow Elfin Cove residents to coordinate this trip.

“Besides wanting to say thank you myself, I wanted to involve my community in something unifying and just good, in these turbulent politically divisive times. And the community did come together,” said Page. “This trip was a group effort. Three lodges volunteered to help with transport, housing, and fishing.”

Page, her husband and two sons, who each captain their own commercial fishing boats in the area, hosted the veterans in their homes and on their boats for part of the trip.

“We hiked, ate well, tried commercial fishing and had a tremendous halibut excursion. Then the group spent four days sport fishing at two high-end sport lodges,” noted Page.

One of those lodges, Tanaku Lodge, is run by Susan and Dennis Meier and Christy and Jim Benton. With several veteran family members, Susan said they have been dreaming about hosting a veteran trip.

“Hosting these couples and Ken was honestly a dream come true,” said Susan. “We have wanted to do this for a very long time. This place is very special to us. Raising our kids here during the summers and the love we all have for this Alaska experience,  I knew it would be a great place for veterans to find some beauty and peace, like it has for us.

“It’s one little thing we can do for these amazing people that do so much for our country. Both the veterans and spouses have given us so much and it was a treat to get to know them and have them as our guests. I know they touched the hearts of us all,” added Susan.

Also assisting with accommodations and sport fishing expeditions were Mike Leboki and Joe Klavic with Eagle Charters, while Kelly and Mary Crump owners of Water’s Edge Lodge assisted with the four-hour ferry ride to and from Elfin Cove and transporting the groups’ hefty haul of fish back to Juneau.

After 23 years of marriage, this bucket-list trip was the first ever vacation for Marine veteran Dave Williams and his caregiver wife, Angel. “The trip was amazing and the people were absolutely wonderful,” said Williams. “It felt like we were reading about it in an adventure novel or something. We had so much fun and met so many great and generous people. It reminded us why we love each other so much and renewed our faith in the goodness of strangers.”

With a typical date night being time spent together in a hospital, parents of five, Jake and Jamie Taylor share what this trip meant to them.

“Alaska was absolutely breathtaking,” said Jamie. “We enjoyed the beauty of the ocean and Elfin Cove. Those who hosted us were so kind and we’re so grateful for their hospitality and generosity. We had a very memorable trip and enjoyed every second we had together.”

Jamie added: “As my husband’s caregiver, I don’t get many opportunities to get away and enjoy myself. This trip was a much needed respite from my daily worries and stresses. The location was conducive to rest and relaxation and I enjoyed myself immensely.”

Hope For The Warriors created the Outdoor Adventures Program in 2010 to provide adaptive opportunities for wounded heroes to participate in sporting activities in the great outdoors. In 2012, the organization recognized the therapeutic benefits for the family members and expanded the program to include spouses and children of wounded and fallen service members.

To make a donation to the Hope For The Warriors Outdoor Adventures program or for more information, visit hopeforthewarriors.org/sports-recreation/outdoor-adventures/ or hopeforthewarriors.org, Facebook or Twitter.

For more photos, visit: http://bit.ly/2vJaecH.

About Hope For The Warriors: 

Founded in 2006, Hope For The Warriors is a national nonprofit dedicated to restoring a sense of self, family and hope for post 9/11 veterans, service members and military families. Since its inception, Hope For The Warriors has served more than 13,000 through a variety of support programs focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement and connections to community resources. The nonprofit’s first program, A Warrior’s Wish, has granted 168 wishes to fulfill a desire for a better quality of life or support a quest for gratifying endeavors. In addition, Run For The Warriors has captured the hearts of more than 22,000 since 2010. For more information, visit hopeforthewarriors.org, Facebook or Twitter.