Judith O’Keefe loves being on the river and always jumps on her next opportunity to land a “big one.” Yet Judith didn’t even think twice about taking a weekend off to volunteer at a Casting for Recovery Retreat
, where she could share her expertise in fly fishing with a few women battling breast cancer.
Two weeks ago, I had the honor and pleasure of volunteering at a Casting for Recovery Retreat. CFR is a nationally recognized, non-profit organization, which was founded in 1996 by a breast cancer reconstructive surgeon and a professional fly fisher. This organization focuses on wellness by offering free 2 ½ day retreats for women in any stage of breast cancer treatment or recovery. At the retreat, women learn basic fly fishing skills. The dynamics of the sport provide a healing connection to the natural world, and fly casting techniques provide gentle exercise for joints and soft tissue.
This particular retreat was held in beautiful Camp Sherman, OR at the picturesque Lake Creek Lodge. There were fourteen participants and ten volunteer staff in attendance. I was there to assist with casting instruction and to serve as a photographer. Except my primary reason for volunteering at this CFR retreat was the opportunity it gave me to meet these courageous women, and if lucky, to get to know a little about who they are, and what inspires them to put one foot in front of the other each day. While every woman at the Camp Sherman retreat was special and brought something unique to the group, one woman in particular stood out. Heidi was full of joy and determination. In the world of those who fish often, where frequently the talk turns to - how big or how many - it is rare and refreshing to see someone so intent on just catching a fish. Saturday was spent learning the basics: equipment, knot tying and flies, casting and entomology. Sunday was reserved for fishing. On this day, each participant had a "river helper" to give guidance as needed. The ladies and their helpers circled the stocked pond, found a promising piece of water and fished. Like the others, Heidi casted her line, retrieved it, and casted again, and again. The fish weren't particularly cooperative on this sunny autumn day, but a few fish were caught. Heidi landed two, and if her delight and enthusiasm could be bottled and distributed, the world would be a better place. Heidi's son and his wife make their living as fly fishing guides, and now we know where that talent originated.