Many Rivers of Recovery participants find their experience so transformative, they want to share it with others. That’s why veterans are often our biggest advocates.
Sometimes it’s by simply spreading the word. Other times RoR alumni encourage other vets to come on a trip—or even join their buddies to make it more comfortable for them.
And still others take it to another level by starting RoR chapters in their own area to serve more veterans.
A Life Changing Experience
Dan Laffin, an RoR alumni and current board member, has done all of these things. Dan was one of the earliest RoR participants—taking one of our first trips to Utah in 2008.
“It changed my life,” he said.
After he returned to his home in Connecticut, Dan continued to advocate for the program by encouraging other vets to go.
But he soon realized it’s tough to convince vets to go on a long trip, particularly if they feel uncertain about the idea. Plus, it’s also hard to replicate the deeply restorative experience of fly fishing after the trip’s over.
“Taking people out on those great rivers out West is really cool,” Dan said. “But most veterans don’t have the ability to do that again. I wanted to show local veterans what it was like to fish local rivers, so they can go out and do it again.”
In 2014, armed with the approval of RoR founder Dan Cook and a fundraising plan, Dan launched an RoR chapter for veterans living in the northeastern United States.
Dan used his connections with guides and his local Orvis fly fishing shop to get started. In 2015, he coordinated the first two trips—one in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts. In 2016, things really took off, and Dan doubled the trips and tripled the number of participants.
Dan is quick to give credit to others who wanted to help. “There’s lots of people willing to volunteer their time,” he said. “It reduces costs and improve the consistency of the service we provide.”
The Evolution of Rivers of Recovery
Jim Mayol, RoR board member and long-time supporter, has watched many veterans help other veterans by sharing their experience. He describes it as part of RoR’s evolution.
“They are all leaders,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t appreciate how good veterans can be as leaders. It’s good for the participants because they are usually more comfortable with veterans who are also combat vets.”
And vets are doing all these things while holding down full-time jobs and finding time to spend with their families, Jim explained. “It amazes me what they’ve given back considering what they’ve already given.”