Foundation hooks up fishing contest with vet aid
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent June 28, 2014 10:58PM
Warriors First Foundation President Ralph Kokot (left) with his son, Jonathon, on active duty at Fort Bragg, NC. | John Robbins~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 29, 2014 2:01AM
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 overmedicate. 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.