Fish­ing con­test hooked to aid for vets

Post-Tribune - - Local - BY JOHN ROB­BINS Post-Tri­bune cor­re­spon­dent

PORTAGE — The event may have been a lure for com­pet­i­tive bass fish­ing on a sum­mer’s day, but the sec­ond Big Bass Bash was all about help­ing to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing some vet­er­ans en­dure.

Be­fore the com­peti­tors re­turned their 21 boats to the Portage Ma­rina and re­turned to Bass Pro Shops for weigh­ing and awards, War­riors First Foun­da­tion founder and pres­i­dent Ralph Kokot said the event raises money for vet­er­ans deal­ing with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, among other things.

“PTSD is just not com­bat-re­lated,” said foun­da­tion chair­man Ralph Kokot, who added that Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush had sug­gested drop­ping the term “dis­or­der” from the phrase to help re­move the stigma that may be as­so­ci­ated with the syn­drome.

“Fam­i­lies suf­fer, too, when a vet has PTSD,” he said. “Many may try to self-med­i­cate with al­co­hol and the Vet­er­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion may over- med­i­cate. It’s re­ally a weird, in­ter­est­ing dy­namic be­cause many vets are not quick to ad­mit some­thing is wrong.”

The event also fea­tured a beer gar­den, food ven­dors, ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren and live en­ter­tain­ment.

The War­riors First Foun­da­tion helped spon­sor wounded vet­eran Jon Fearnow in Satur­day’s tour­na­ment. Fearnow’s wife, Brena, was wait­ing for the re­turn of her hus­band.

Fearnow was wounded in Afghanistan while clear­ing routes of im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices. He has PTSD and trau­matic brain in­jury and uses a ser­vice dog, Daisy. He re­mains on ac­tive duty in the In­di­ana Na­tional Guard.

“We want to make this an an­nual event,” said Shawn My­ers, main­te­nance man­ager of Bass Pro Shops who, along with Bass Pro Shops gen­eral man­ager Jim Os­borne, helped or­ga­nize the event. The Post-Tri­bune was among the event’s co-spon­sors.

At least one boat caught 14 pounds of fish, My­ers said. And, fish­er­men be­ing fish­er­men, “sev­eral boats have lost some nice ones,” My­ers said.

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