A woman who has experienced the life-changing effects of a fishing and camping trip on the Namekagon River is trying to raise enough money to offer a similar trip this summer. Brenda Falk has created a GoFundMe page seeking $8,000 in contributions to provide the experience for other women who are combat veterans.
Falk served in the Army National Guard from 1992 until 2015. She went on her first veterans river trip in 2016 and was immediately hooked.
She says being immersed in wild rivers provides tranquility,and a rare chance for women to take a break from their other responsibilities, and the lasting effects of war.
“Sometimes it is just kind of nice to have a female-specific event,” Falk says. “Some women have PTSD because of incidents around males in service. So going to an event like fishing or where we’re staying in a cabin, they might not feel safe. So to be able to make this a much safer environment where they don’t have to be worried about anything like that is something I think is necessary.”
This year’s outing would be the fifth annual trip, hosting six women. A few weeks before the scheduled trip, it has only raised $1,000 from 10 donors. The trip would be operated by the nonprofit Rivers of Recovery organization.
“Funds raised will enable our female combat veterans to experience the healing power of a Rivers of Recovery trip, and any donation will help make an impact,” Falk writes. “I was lucky enough to be a part of the first trip in 2016, and now I want to share the experience with more women combat veterans.”
Rivers of Recovery helps combat veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, minor Traumatic Brain Injury, stress, anxiety and depression. The organization reports that 400,000 to 600,000 Iraq & Afghanistan veterans are estimated to suffer from psychological injuries and 320,000 suffer from probable Traumatic Brain Injury.
“Our program, which combines outdoor recreational activities with instruction on the self-treatment of symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety, empowers veterans to live a life that is no longer restricted by psychological or physical disabilities,” according to Rivers of Recovery.
The program grew out of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway’s “Vets on the River” program, facilitated by ranger Jeff Butler. St. Croix 360 has published stories about that program previously.
“Women go home and they’re invisible,” Butler told Rivers of Recovery. “They slip back into society, back into families, back into school.”
This year, Butler encouraged the trip to be solely organized by women, and Falk is working directly with fishing guide Wendy Williamson of Hayward Fly Fishing to put it on.