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AMMIL Vets holding tournament

By Staff | May 17, 2018

Join the American Military Veterans Foundation organization for the sixth annual charity fishing tournament, Hooked Up 4 Veterans, Memorial Day weekend at Cape Harbour Marina.

Every year AMMIL Vets names the tournament after one of their own fallen warriors, to honor their faithful devotion to their country and community.

This year the tournament is in honor and memory of Larry Steponik, a two- time Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient for service in Vietnam who was an active member of the organization. Steponik passed away Nov 19, 2017.

“He was pretty well decorated,” National Commander and Founder Dave Souders said of the U.S Army veteran.

The tournament will kick off with the captain’s meeting at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at KJ’s Fresh Grill, 10950 S. Cleveland Ave., in Fort Myers. At 5:30 p.m. complimentary food, soda and Budweiser products will be served. Captains are required to check in at 7:30 p.m. at the location to receive their captain’s bags, tournament rules and weigh-in times.

The following day, Sunday, May 27, the tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 7 a.m. at Green Marker 1.

Registration is $300 for a boat of three anglers. It is $75 for any additional angler. Those interested can register as late as 7:30 p.m. at the captain’s meeting.

Anglers will be fishing for two legal redfish in any local waters.

Souders said this is the first year they are hosting the tournament at Cape Harbour Marina.

“We are happy to have it there. Cape Harbour is more than able to handle the tournaments,” he said.

The free kid’s fishing derby will run from 9 a.m. until noon on the docks alongside Rum Runners Restaurant.

Souders said the first 80 children to register the day of the event will receive a rod and reel combo, which they may keep. The bait will also be provided for the youngsters.

The kids derby is geared towards youths 5 to 12 years old. Souders asks that parents are there to supervise their children during the tournament.

He said the kids derby is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank. There is no preregistration for the kids derby.

Other activities for the tournament will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Raffles and a silent auction will begin around 4 p.m. in the pavilion.

Barbara Rae will kick off the music portion of the event at 11 a.m., followed by Second Chance Band at noon. The Buckin’ Wild Band, the headliner of the event, will perform from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Overtime Pizzera and Sports Pub are preparing the food for participants.

The biggest significance of the tournament, Souders said, are the prizes. He wants the tournament to return to being a true fundraiser, so they are awarding the first place winner $1,500, second place $750 and third place $375.

“It really isn’t about paying people to be there at the tournament. It’s more about veterans. It’s about raising funds for what we do and what the organization does. It is about suicide awareness, suicide prevention,” Souders said. “It is about giving back to veterans, to see where you are making a difference in the community, which is our veterans.”

With that in mind, the team who makes 23rd place will also receive an award, $875, in an effort to educate people about the significance of veteran suicide.

“The prize for 23rd place represents the number of veterans that commit suicide every day each year,” said Souders. “This epidemic has taken nearly 135,000 lives in the past 16 years, which is more than those killed in action in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars combined.”

Originally founded in 2010 as Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, the organization has extended its outreach to veterans through a variety of programs. The programs include family retreats, rod crafting, harmony for veterans (music therapy), fishing and firearm programs, and a new program in the works, art therapy for veterans.

“We are going to have quite a few of our custom rods built by the veterans, eight or nine, available to be bid on,” Souders said during the tournament’s auction.

In addition, the organization feeds veterans every Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The programs utilize the mind, hands and time of veterans to keep them busy, while helping them cope with individual issues, Souders added.

They also offer such services as Acts of Kindness for Veterans, Financial Assistance Program, Wheels for Disabled Veterans, Veteran Service Officer and Peer to Peer Meeting for PTSD.

Money raised during the tournament will be used for the many programs AMMIL Vets provides.

For more information about the tournament, visit www.hu4v.com, or contact Souders at soudersd@ammilvets.org, Judy Souders at soudersj@ammilvets.org, or Keith Campbell at campbellk@ammilvets.org

For more information about the organization, visit www.ammilvets.org.