U.S. veterans treated to Purple Heart Anglers fishing trip on Donner Lake
Randy Houston, founder and president of Purple Heart Anglers, finds it ironic when he receives a “thank you” from a U.S. military veteran.
It happened again this past Sunday, when Houston’s nonprofit organization hosted a fishing outing with a group of veterans on Donner Lake.
“A lot of the Vietnam vets have told me that it’s the thank you that they never got. It’s touching. It has had a profound effect on me. When I’ve got a guy in a wheelchair telling me thank you for what I’m doing, after he was shot while protecting us and our freedom, it feels backwards,” Houston said.
The younger brother of a Vietnam vet, Houston started Purple Heart Anglers in 2009 to help aid in the healing of disable veterans through supported fishing and hunting trips.
He rounds up veterans who are interested in such outdoor ventures and organizes the events, which take place across the state and beyond. Recruiting is not difficult, as Purple Heart Anglers, a 501 © 3 nonprofit, covers all the costs and logistics.
“They (the vets) think it’s a pretty good deal,” said Houston, who lives near Half Moon Bay. “Usually the question, ‘Do you like to fish, hunt or eat?’ is not a hard one for these guys to answer. And that’s all we do. We don’t do any politics and we don’t do therapy.”
The Donner Lake fishing trip is the latest addition to the Purple Heart Anglers calendar.
Marc Christophel, who operates Christophel’s Guide service on Donner Lake, helped Houston organize the Truckee event after volunteering his boat for a fishing trip on Collins Lake this past March. He posted a call for volunteers on his website and was pleasantly surprised with the result.
“We had all the volunteer boats lined up within 24 hours. It was really rewarding to see how our community responded,” said Christophel, adding that many local entities donated to the event, including the Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District, which covered the cost of boat inspections and launch fees. Other businesses and individuals donated lures and food for a post-fishing barbecue at West End Beach.
The fishing was a bit slow — due in part to a nearly full moon — but that’s beside the point of Purple Heart Anglers’ mission.
“It’s not as much about the fishing as it is about the relationships and talking with these guys and hearing their stories,” Christophel said. “It’s about showing our appreciation for what they’ve done. They’re heroes in my opinion.”
Both Christophel and Houston said the Donner Lake outing will not be the last. They kept it small for the inaugural year, with about 10 veterans and a few of their family members, but hope to expand it to include more boats and participants in the future.
For more information about Purple Heart Anglers, visit the organization’s website.