Palm Coast, FL – Serving between 350 and 400 veterans locally by providing rides to their VA clinic medical appointments, some as far away as Jacksonville, Gainesville or Viera, the miles and costs can quickly add up.

Providing the Disabled American Veterans a much needed helping hand on Tuesday evening, the Flagler Sportfishing Club presented the Jim Booe Chapter 86 in Palm Coast/Flagler County with a check for $12,000 during their July meeting.

Proceeds from the annual Spring Classic fishing tournament will provide a significant boost for the donation-based veteran’s organization for the third year in a row, according to DAV Chapter Commander George O’Dell.

“Previously, two years ago we got a check from the Sportfishing Club that went toward us purchasing a new vehicle. They’re used to transport veterans from Flagler County to their appointments or doctors outside the VA system as long as it’s scheduled by the VA,” he said.

While the local chapter also staffs four national DAV certified officers to help veterans and their families with VA claims and paperwork, O’Dell says the organization is 100 percent volunteer, and the modest stipend from the national DAV covers just about a month of the organization’s annual budget.

“We operate solely on donations,” he said, grateful for the Flagler Sportfishing Club’s support that also helps supply holiday baskets, about a week’s worth of food for the veteran and family members, during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, and shores up the emergency fund for veterans in need during a crisis.

Standing among the DAV and Sportfishing Club members, the presentation was particularly meaningful to the fishing tournament’s chair Dana Syens, whose co-chair Rita Waddell passed away on August 31, 2020.

The pair had made supporting the local DAV a point of pride, and to this day Syens still grieves the loss of her friend.

Volunteer Rita Waddell, co-chair of the annual Flagler Sportfishing Club Spring Classic fishing tournament who passed away in 2020, loved helping with the annual Kids Fishing Clinic at Bings Landing each year. Photo: FNW/2018

“Rita died last year of COVID right after the (2020) tournament so it was very important for me to continue and do better than we did in the past,” shared Syens.

“This is very important to me because these are veterans. They don’t get support from anyone. I just feel without them, we could not be here and gather and do what we do and speak our opinions,” she said with deep emotion.

Passing the mantle to another to chair for next year’s tournament, Syens implored club members to continue to select the DAV Chapter 86 as the tournament’s beneficiary.

Working closely with Sportfishing Club member and DAV Vice Commander Ernie Morris to help local disabled veterans, Syens has seen firsthand the direct impact the dollars raised have had in the Flagler County community.

Flagler Sportfishing Club Spring Classic Fishing Tournament Chair Dana Syens and DAV Jim Booe Chapter 86 Palm Coast Vice Commander Ernie Morris work to support veterans and heal hearts in Flagler County.

“It means the world to me. Ernie Morris has helped so many of our club members that were veterans to get VA benefits that they didn’t even know they were entitled to,” she said.

“We have one man who was a Colonel in the Air Force. He was a helicopter pilot, he jumped out of the helicopters, and he didn’t realize. With Ernie’s help, he got a new knee. He had no idea he was even eligible for that.”

Tasked with raising funds to support the organization, Morris, a 24-year Navy veteran says the sizeable donation almost covers a year’s worth of budget needs and allows the DAV volunteers to focus on helping veterans get the benefits, services and care they’ve earned.

“This is huge. Like I say, three thousand dollars more and we’ll be able to pay the bills for the year. It’s a big deal and takes a lot of pressure off of us,” said Morris. “We, like any other organization, run short on volunteers, so it stresses us to try to do the things we do already without going out and having to drum up funds.”

“Our mission is to help veterans live a quality life with respect and dignity. We do everything we can to accomplish that mission,” he said.

Coming Soon:

The Flagler Sportfishing Club will host their annual Kids Fishing Clinic on July 24, 2021 at Hershel King Park in Palm Coast from 9 am to noon. There is no cost for children to attend, and in addition to learning the basics of fishing, will receive a free rod and reel, and a hot dog lunch.

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