Jeff Butler, Vietnam vet and outdoor enthusiast, knows firsthand how nature helps with the healing process.
His personal experience with fly fishing lead to a partnership with Rivers of Recovery—helping him expand the National Park Service’s Vets on the River program by offering fishing trips.
The partnership gave more Wisconsin veterans a chance to discover the magic of fly fishing.
Reaching Rural Communities
RoR had the experience and the connections to quickly launch the program with Vets on the River. And the partnership helped the organization reach rural communities where veterans often have limited access to other resources.
“We’re always looking for new places for our trips,” explained Amy Simon, RoR executive director. “Wisconsin was a great fit, particularly because we could serve local veterans living in rural areas, who are often overlooked.”
Expanding the Program
Jeff started Vets on the River in 2012 by organizing kayaking trips for veterans in Wisconsin. As the NPS’s veterans program coordinator, he saw the partnership with Rivers of Recovery as a great addition to his program.
He began networking in the local guiding and veteran communities, finding the right people for the organization’s first fly fishing trip with Rivers of Recovery in 2014.
“It’s what I’m all about—getting veterans out in nature,” Jeff said.
Hayward Fly Fishing Company—a local veteran-owned business—has supported the program from the beginning. RoR provided the funding, lodging and the logistics. Jeff spent a lot of time working on the details that make a difference.
“I know the guides and I know the vets, so I set it up based on how they will interact,” Jeff said. “When they come back, they’re the best friends in the world. I give credit to the guides—they really make the trip. I also like to blend the older generation with the younger generation. The younger vets want to talk to the older vets, and vice versa.”
Jeff believes working with Rivers of Recovery helps make a difference in the lives of veterans, and he enjoys watching his fellow vets discover nature’s healing influence.
“I don’t guide them on the river,” Jeff explained. “I guide them to the river. I let the river do the magic.”