Gone Fishing 

Reel Aid brings fly fishing to Mid-South cancer patients.

Charlie Bonner fly fishing during a Reel Recovery retreat in Denver

Robin Wheeler

Charlie Bonner fly fishing during a Reel Recovery retreat in Denver

Early this year, Robin Wheeler lost a close friend, 31-year-old Charlie Bonner, to stomach cancer.

Before Bonner's death in February, however, he went to a Reel Recovery retreat in Denver.

"He had a very good time," Wheeler says. "He looked forward to going, and he came back recharged."

Reel Recovery is a program where men battling cancer come together to escape, interact with each other, and learn how to fly fish. The majority of the retreats are as close as Texas, but some are as far away as California.

Now Wheeler is trying to help more local men have a chance to attend the fishing retreats.

On Friday, August 7th, Wheeler and others will host Reel Aid at Minglewood Hall with Inner 61, Gabby Johnson, the Dirt Brothers, and the Jeff Scheetz Band. Proceeds from the event will benefit Reel Recovery, Casting for Recovery (a program that helps women recovering from breast cancer), and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing for disabled military personnel and veterans.

"To date, we have conducted 65 retreats in 12 states, and every one has been completely free to participants," says Stan Golub, executive director of Reel Recovery.

The average price of a retreat is $700 a person, and each retreat normally accommodates 12 to 14 patients. Wheeler hopes to raise enough money for people in the Mid-South to attend a Reel Recovery retreat in Arkansas.

"They learn they are not alone, that others have dealt with similar issues, and they gain a network of support and friendship to help them with their recovery after the event ends," Golub says. "We treat them like kings for a couple days, and they leave rejuvenated and replenished from the fun, camaraderie, and spirit of hope that pervades the entire experience."

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