WWA opens new headquarters

A vision imagined more than six years ago became a reality earlier this week when the founders of the Wounded Warrior Anglers of America signed lease papers for their new world headquarters and training facility on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral.

“To see it come to fruition is more than amazing. We will continue helping veterans and changing lives, one warrior at a time,” vice president and co-founder Judy Souders said.

The 1,600-square-foot facility, which currently has no interior walls, will include a reception area, two offices with ample privacy, a storage room, a custom rod and reel display area, a rod building workshop outfitted with Renzetti equipment and approximately 500 square feet designated to a multi-purpose room.

“This is going to be something totally different from anything else,” president and co-founder David Souders said. “This is a training facility, training people to occupy their time. To get their minds off of certain things and be able to do things. If they become members, it will give them a place that is constructive. It’s a safe place for them.”

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Wounded Warrior Anglers of America President and Co-Founder David Souders, Vice President and Co-Founder Judy Souders and Board Member Keith Campbell stand in the doorway of the new Wounded Warrior Anglers of America Headquarters and Training Facility.

The organization is in the process of getting a contractor in place to pull the permits needed to complete the space. Many business members of the community have already stepped forward to donate their skills, time and material to duplicate the Souders’ vision.

Jeff Asbury is donating all the building materials for the project from Coastal Building Material, and Chuck Chatter with 180 Painting offered to do the painting for the facility.

“This place would not have been possible without the help of people like Seafarers International, Miceli’s, Beavertail and Nautic Star. Those are our key strategic partners,” David said.

Board member Keith Campbell said when they have the permits in place and get everyone on the same schedule, the build-out should take three days at the most.

“This is the first I have ever seen,” he said of the facility. “It is not VA supported. It’s not government funded. It’s self-sufficient. Now the sky is the limit on how big it can get, how wide we can grow.”

Many of the veterans affiliated with the organization have already offered a helping hand throughout the construction process.

There are many items the organization is in need of once the organization settles into the new facility, such items as nice, welcoming, matching furniture for the two offices; four computers; printers; a phone system; a point of sale system; chairs; stools; two drying stations for the rod building; and a display counter.

One of the two office spaces will be used by certified veteran services officers. David said they are going to start with having two VSOs, one of which is Campbell.

Campbell said he wants to become certified, so he can help veterans at a higher level.

“I get a lot of road blocks doing it on my own,” he said of offering a helping hand. “I feel with being a certified VSO, it will open up some avenues to meet other people and make a lot of the roads easier.”

There is a national certification a person has to take through the Department of Veteran Affairs to become a VSO. After purchasing the books to become certified, people can go through the process as quickly or slowly as they chose, as long as they complete the testing within a year’s time.

David said once the individual passes the certification test, Wounded Warrior Anglers has to apply as a nonprofit organization with the certified veteran service officers at Veterans Affairs to become a patient advocate and VSO.

“Anybody can help a veteran, but being a certified veteran services officer means you have access to the VA system and access to the VA computers. It makes it easier and better for the veteran,” he said.

The multi-purpose room will be utilized for the national board meetings, rod building workshops, the raffle boat when activities are not going on and a gathering space for educational programs and entertainment.

The facility will also have space for custom rods and reels, the production line, Mission 23 and the Wounded Warrior Anglers shirts.

David expressed a great deal of excitement regarding the endless possibilities the new facility will have for its members with one of its programs – rod building. He said they will eventually have a window of time blocked out for the members to stop by the facility and work on their custom rods.

“As long as they are buying their equipment, blanks and material from us, which will actually help fund the organization, and they are a member, they are going to be able to come in and have access to use it,” David said.

In the future, he hopes to block out time for eight days every two weeks. The other four days will be used to work with two new warriors teaching them how to build their own rod, followed by a fishing trip using their custom rod.

“That’s long term,” David said. “That is my ultimate goal to train two warriors every two weeks.”

An open house will be held in the near future, which Judy said the public and their partners are more than welcome to attend.

“Anybody that’s in the community that wants to reach out to us and talk to us, we more than welcome their calls,” she said. “We are wanting our veterans to come in and be community oriented because veterans and their families are some of the strongest fibers of our nation.”

Once the interior walls are up and furniture is brought in for the offices, the facility will open with regular business hours.

The headquarters is located at 1490 Pine Island Road, Unit 5D. For information, call (239) 257-3410.

Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media director.

Golf tourney deemed success

As 8 a.m. struck Saturday, Sept. 19, a slew of golf carts exited the Myerlee Country Club with more than 40 golfers eager to participate in the first annual Golf Tournament to benefit Wounded Warrior Anglers – Southwest Florida Region.

WWA-Tourney-and-Rods-056-copy-2Ralph Camp, a member of the Southwest Florida Region Chapter and tournament director, said it was a very good day.

“I have some things in my head if they want to do this again that will hopefully make it a little better,” Camp said. “It’s about raising funds and having fun. As far as I know, everybody had a good time. ”

Justin Juha, owner of Bobbin Pools in Cape Coral, was among one of the golfers who showed their support. He said he decided to form a team – Marc Barbato, Mike Danielewski and Tom Ciaverilla – after one of his customers invited him to play in the scramble.

Bob & Pools won first place.
Bobbin Pools won first place.

The group’s texts began about two weeks ago as the excitement grew about the outing Saturday.

Although they did not know anything about the organization before attending, Juha and his teammates had a blast out on the golf course, knowing they were supporting Wounded Warrior Anglers.

Bobbin Pools won first place, a $200 prize, which was donated back to the organization.

The second place winners, Team 14, which was comprised of Antoine LaChapelle, who has donated his time to take Wounded Warrior Anglers members out fishing for the past three years, Jeremy Johnson and Jill Dean.

Jeremy Johnson, Antoine LaChapelle and Jill Dean won second place.
Jeremy Johnson, Antoine LaChapelle and Jill Dean won second place.

“I like playing golf and I like to participate in any fundraisers for the organization,” LaChapelle said.

His team won $100.

Wounded Warrior Anglers Board Member Kevin Santos also participated in the golf scramble with his team Coastline Boat Lift Covers with Pete Paskewicz,Tom and Terri Sobeck.

“I think it’s pretty good for our first time,” Santos said of the turnout. “I think we are all having a good time. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

Team Coastline Boat Lift Covers won third place, a $60 prize, which was donated back to the organization.

“I love it,” Terri said shortly after the tournament began out on the green. “It’s been a great day.”

She said she thinks Wounded Warrior Anglers is a fantastic organization that does a lot of good for the community.

Pete Paskewicz, Terri and Tom Sobeck and Kevin Santos won third place.
Pete Paskewicz, Terri and Tom Sobeck and Kevin Santos won third place.

Prizes were also provided to golfers who hit the ball closest to hole 6, John Tedesco and hole 14, Ann Johnson.

Tom Ciaverilla walked away with a prize for hitting the longest drive at hole 4, and Louise Cannizzaro won a prize for hitting a straight drive at hole 9.

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Camp recruited many volunteers for the golf scramble who helped with the live auction and 50/50 raffle that was set up inside the clubhouse. Those volunteers included Barbara Camp, Mary Kay, Bentley Heylinger, Frank DePace, Rich Laudermilk and Charlie Greenholdt.

The live auction generated $730 for the organization.

Camp said they sold $185 in mulligans and had $445 in the 50/50 raffle sold before the scramble began. The players also had another opportunity to try their chances at winning the 50/50 raffle after they were done playing the course, increasing the total to $535.

LaChapelle won the raffle and donated the money back to the organization.

“The donation is just good karma,” LaChapelle said.

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Ralph Camp and his volunteers.

Greenholdt joined the Wounded Warrior Anglers – Southwest Florida Region after moving to Cape Coral full-time almost a year ago after he learned about the organization from his neighbor Camp. The disabled veteran served in the United Sates Army for three years during the Korean War.

“This is great,” he said Saturday morning. “I’ll certainly volunteer and do what I can. It’s a great group of people.”

The Wounded Warrior Anglers became a way for Greenholdt to get to know other veterans, while enjoying one his favorite hobby’s – fishing.   

Every two months, the Southwest Florida Region chapter pulls two or three membership cards out of a hat for a fishing outing.

“It’s a great bunch of guys,” he said, adding that Wounded Warrior Anglers is the only organization he belongs to.

WWA-Tourney-and-Rods-120-copy-2Heyliger joined the Southwest Florida Region chapter of Wounded Warrior anglers on Sept. 15. The Army veteran joined the service in March 1976 and retired on March 31, 2015.

“I love it,” Heyliger said about the organization. “I think it’s nice to be together with a brotherhood. Here you know you got real friends.”



Wounded Warrior Anglers is a nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded, or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service. The organization also has a mission to actively support the wounded warrior’s caregiver and their immediate family.



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All photographs are courtesy of Dorene Lowe Photography – a Southwest Florida photographer out of Punta Gorda, Florida. To view more of her photographs, visit https://www.facebook.com/dorenelowephotography, or to schedule a session, call (941) 467-5015.



Article written by Meghan McCoy, Wounded Warrior Anglers media board of director