JOINING FORCES COMMUNITY CHALLENGE ENTRY
Bob Maindelle with the assistance of Dave Hill, Ron Cruse, and Manuel Pena
On behalf of:
Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (S.K.I.F.F.) Program
2328 Pirtle Drive
Salado, TX 76571
This is Nadia M. of Belton, TX. Nadia’s mom and dad are both active duty non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. She and her sister love SKIFF fishing trips!!
Tell us why you’re passionate about helping military families, i.e., why do you want to help?
My name is Bob Maindelle. I am a children’s pastor and a fishing guide living near Fort Hood, Texas. I am passionate about helping military families because I grew up in and around the military, because I had a great dad who served in the military, and because, as an adult, I began to fully appreciate how profoundly having a great dad impacted me for the better. When my own dad passed away too early, I became passionate about helping kids that were without dads due to death, divorce, and deployment.
In my role as a Children’s Pastor in Killeen, Texas, right outside the gates of Fort Hood, I was on watch when the War in Iraq and when the War in Afghanistan began. As soldier-parents began to deploy for 18 months at a time (and in many cases, several times over), I immediately began to see the impact that their absence made on the family members left behind. I first detected it most notably in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade boys I ministered to. I instinctively knew that the academic, emotional, and behavioral problems they were experiencing was directly linked to missing their parents.
I began to do what I could about what I saw happening around me. I began setting time aside for “Guy Time” wherein boys and girls could spend time with me (a “guy”, hence the moniker) in hopes of making up in some small way for missing the parent serving in harm’s way. I did with the kids the things that I imagined them doing with their father, and the things my father did with me – change oil, mow grass, fix broken things, and fish. Of all these things, the fishing trips really struck a chord with the kids.
I began taking more and more kids, many several times, all from my church at first. Then, I began getting calls from moms I didn’t know to take kids I didn’t know out fishing as word of mouth spread about “Guy Time”. My wife prudently suggested I carry some manner of insurance now that I was dealing with the public and not just families that we knew from church. Well, insurance is costly, so, I set up a small business and began taking adults fishing and subsidizing the “Guy Time” trips with the money earned there, all so that the trips I offered could be offered totally free of charge to the families of our deployed soldiers.
As I gained a following of satisfied adult customers, a call came in inviting me to speak to a fishing club in Austin, Texas, in early 2009. The club’s name is the Austin Fly Fishers. As the presentation wound down I informally mentioned about how paid trips from adult clients went to fund “Guy Time” adventures for kids without dads in Killeen.
The next morning I got a call from a very excited club member, Ron Cruse. He simply said, “Bob, we want to make a way for you to take more military kids on more trips, and not have to do it all out of your own pocket.”
What is the program(s) and/or service(s) that you offer and to whom? How long have you been doing it? (What are you doing to help?)
Over a 3 month span, from February 2009 to May 2009, Ron Cruse, other Austin Fly Fishers club members, and I worked to get our joint venture off the ground. We named it “SKIFF” a generic name for a little boat, the letters of which stand for Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun.
Describing what we do to help is very simple — we put the children of deployed or deceased soldiers on my boat in the middle of nature for about 4 hours at a time and make sure they have a blast catching fish. In so doing, we also give the non-deployed or surviving spouse some much needed down time if he or she chooses not to attend along with the children.
At the conclusion of each trip, we send along to the state-side spouse a blog entry summarizing the fishing trip and showing photos of the kids in action. This is done electronically so the deployed spouse can view the blog and digital photos, too, often on the day of or the day after the fishing trip, despite being half a world away. Children are also presented with souvenirs to recount the occasion. We’ve sent home embroidered hats, t-shirts, silicone wristbands, tackle boxes, lures, and more.
SKIFF is open to children from 5 to 16 years of age. We’ve been taking children fishing under the SKIFF banner from May 2009 to present.
The Austin Fly Fishers does all of the fundraising for SKIFF both through donations from their own members and through garnering grassroots, local support from businesses and individuals around the country, but mainly in the central Texas area. It currently costs ~$65 per child to offer the quality excursion the children experience during their time on the water. The Austin Fly Fishers’ efforts have accounted for over $6,700 in funding for SKIFF from its inception to present.
Who is involved? Are you an organization or an individual? Tell us about you or your organization, how it got started, what other programs are offered, etc.
SKIFF is a cooperative effort between the Austin Fly Fishers (a non-profit organization) and Bob Maindelle, a professional, licensed, insured fishing guide. Three Austin Fly Fishers club members, Dave Hill, Ron Cruse, and Manuel Pena, serve as the SKIFF point persons.
As mentioned earlier, this all started in early 2009 when I noticed how positively kids with parents deployed reacted to the time I spent with them in the context of the fishing trips I took them on. I began taking more and more kids, many several times, all from my church at first. Then, I began getting calls from moms I didn’t know to take kids I didn’t know out fishing as word of mouth spread about what I had nick-named “Guy Time”. My wife prudently suggested I carry some manner of insurance now that I was dealing with the public and not just families that we knew from church. Well, insurance is costly, so, I set up a small business and began taking adults fishing and subsidizing the “Guy Time” trips with the money earned there.
As I gained a following of satisfied adult customers, a call came in inviting me to speak to a fishing club in Austin, TX. The group’s name is the Austin Fly Fishers. As the presentation wound down I informally mentioned about how paid trips from adult clients went to fund “Guy Time” adventures for kids without dads in Killeen.
The next morning I got a call from a very excited club member, Ron Cruse. He simply said, “Bob, we want to make a way for you to take more kids on more trips and not have to do it all out of your own pocket.” SKIFF was born at that moment.
How have you touched the lives of military families? What kind of positive impact have your efforts had on the lives of military families – from active duty, National Guard and Reserve to veterans and survivors of fallen troops?
Since the first fishing trip conducted under the “SKIFF” banner in May of 2009 to the time of this writing, 12 October 2011, we’ve conducted exactly 51 fishing trips for 104 children. Those children have landed 2,459 fish, an average of over 23 fish per child. Standing behind those 104 children were U.S. Army and Air Force troops serving in harm’s way. By our actions we let them know we cared about them as we cared for their children – to let them know that their service is noticed and is important and is not forgotten. Standing behind those 104 child
ren were the non-deployed spouses who were suddenly left as single parents to take on the job of two people for a time as the needs of the nation required their loved ones’ attention. We provided a respite, however brief, for these spouses – 4 or 5 hours to decompress, to go shopping unaccompanied, to escape the 24/7 fray of childrearing for just a bit. These are the impacts SKIFF has brought about. In closing, I share here the words of Army Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery Pearce, who, when he wrote these words, was serving in the 89th Military Police Brigade in Baghdad, Iraq …
24 March 2010
I wanted to take just a moment to send a very heartfelt thanks to you and the Austin Fly Fishing Club for taking my daughter, Ashley, and her friend, Danielle, out fishing recently at Stillhouse Lake.
As you know, Danielle’s father and I are both deployed to Baghdad, Iraq for a year and miss our daughters immensely. I am so very grateful that you would take time out of your busy schedule to be a Father figure to the girls. They both went on and on about what great time they had fishing with you; I wished I could have been there to see their faces as you guys reeled in fish after fish that day! I am incredibly proud to call you my friend for the time you sacrifice from your own family to stand in a Soldier’s place in supporting our own Children while we are gone. I am genuinely grateful Bob; thank you.
I know that the support you receive from the Austin Fly Fishing Club makes this all possible, so would you please express my sincere appreciation to them as well? I know that there are many, many grateful Children AND Soldier-Parents whose lives are touched through their generous support. The life lessons that come with this wonderful display of generosity will not be forgotten and will be shared with as many Soldiers as I can talk to about it! I am truly thrilled that an organization would dedicate its precious resources towards the support of our Soldiers’ Children. This special program touches our Army’s Families in so many ways. The Army believes that when we recruit the Soldier, we recruit the Family. Your efforts help to ensure that our Families remain “Army Strong” and that, in turn, aids us in our efforts to retain Soldiers and their Families. Ashley still beams when she talks about her fishing trip and how much she enjoyed it. I know that she and every other child that has been graced with this wonderful opportunity will be forever grateful to you.
My hat is off to the Austin Fly Fishing Club; you are all Heros to me.
On behalf of all Soldier-Parents; thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I sincerely hope your organization receives the many blessings you so richly deserve!
Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Pearce
JEFFREY W. PEARCE
XO, 89th MP Brigade