Photo courtesy of Fred Vaccarella, commander of SAL Squadron 327 in Norfolk, Va.

Fishing tournament benefits OCW

A 30-minute conversation between a Sons of The American Legion member and the owner of a fishing pier in North Carolina where an annual fishing tournament is held resulted in nearly $5,000 in donations to the Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program.

While visiting his beachside residence in Avon, N.C., Steve Gower, a member of SAL Squadron 327 in Norfolk, Va., met Joe Thompson. Thompson, owner of Koru Village Oceanfront Resort and Spa and the Avon Fishing Pier, shared with Gower that he wanted the third annual PBR Classic Fishing Tournament to benefit wounded veterans. Gower shared about OCW and Thompson thought the program “seemed like a perfect fit,” he said. “Working with Steve and his team was nothing short of inspiring … great group of guys.”

The fishing tournament was held last month over Veterans Day weekend and involved more than 50 fishermen reeling in blue fish and red drum off the Avon Fishing Pier. Tournament registration fees, sponsor fees, raffle prizes, 50/50 drawings and donations all benefited OCW.

“I preach OCW all the time and what people love most about it is that 100 percent of donations support wounded veterans. That’s instrumental,” Gower said. “So at the tournament, people really went all out for what we were doing for OCW and The American Legion family. We had more people thanking us for doing what we were doing to give back to veterans. It was really touching.”

A table filled with OCW giveaways, Legion brochures and membership applications was set up at the pier and manned by Gower, Squadron 327 Commander Fred Vaccarella, SAL Past National Vice Commander Jeff Evans and SAL Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee Chairman Clint Bolt. Gower said the Legion table set-up and the sharing of the work of the Legion family for veterans, servicemembers and their families resulted in a lot of distribution of American Legion material and interest in the organization.

“The support we received and the generosity of all in attendance was impressive,” Gower said. The Legion and OCW was so well received that OCW will once again be the beneficiary for next year’s fishing tournament.

“Everybody had a great time and everybody learned a lot from it, and I’m looking forward to next year. It’s going to be a whole lot bigger,” Gower said.

Thompson agreed.

“The tournament was a huge success. Our intentions are to grow it … grow the tournament, grow the benefit,” he said.

Several OCW giveaway bags were left over from the event, which gave Gower the idea to fill with handmade Christmas cards from children to give to veterans receiving care at VA’s in Virginia. Nearly 15 elementary schools in the Chesapeake, Norfolk and Portsmouth area are making cards for veterans, which Gower said, “will put a smile on a lot of veterans’ faces.”