Hope for Heroes hosted its first annual Cast and Blast Tournament and according to founder Mitch Serlin, it was a huge success.
With the start of turkey season Saturday morning, April 13, Serlin wanted to combine two aspects of the outdoors that are prevalent in the area, hunting and fishing.
Several volunteer guides opted to take the “Heroes” as well as television crews from three different hunting and fishing shows, on a Saturday morning turkey hunt.
More volunteers also took the Heroes and film crews out on Dale Hollow Lake to fish Saturday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Many of the volunteers had connections to Albany, including Jim Elmore, Junior Elmore, Allen Smith, Perry Neathery, Mike Burton, Richard Armstrong, Jeff Sams, Jereme Hill, Larry Conner and Nicky Spears as well as other volunteers that assisted during the weekend ssportsman event.
Other than having “Heroes” in camp, three different hunting and fishing shows were on hand including Hank Parker 3D, Live the Wildlife TV, and Wallhanger TV.
“They volunteered all their time. They got boats for each team and then they got a boat for the three camera crews,” Serlin said.
Team Live the Wildlife TV won the Cast and Blast Tournament this past weekend with a group of five fish caught on Dale Hollow, as well as a turkey on Sunday, which was the only turkey taken during the contest.
The winner received the “Woody McHale Cup” which was named after a New York City Fireman who according to Serlin recently past away.
“He was a huge advocate to help the heroes. He would set up trip to go down to Walter Reed and would take the soldiers down to Ground Zero and drive them around the city,” Serlin said. “I grew up with him, so we named the cup after him. He was also a football player in New York and a poster-child for New York. He was just a big solid guy.”
In October, the Hope for Heroes Foundation held their first hunt and since then, Serlin said he has been busy.
“Very good. We did 11 deer hunts in the fall,” Serlin said. “We have 15 turkey hunts and 30 fishing trips scheduled in the spring and summer.
Serlin also said the Hope for Heroes will be hosting a 5K run in Burkesville on April 27.
Serlin has been traveling back and forth between Albany and Burkesville and he said that both communities have been helpful in his cause.
“They have been really perceptive to what we are doing,” Serlin said. “We are very happy with they way the community has treated us so far. It’s been huge for both counties to help. You can’t even put it into words what it means. It makes life a lot easier for us as far as getting things accomplished and it’s a good feeling to be accepted.”
With spring time here, Serlin said he is getting ready for the upcoming year by discing food plots and spraying for weed control. He is looking forward to the upcoming year with the heroes.
“We are probably going to plant at the end of the month and we will be setting up equipment for the next year,” Serlin said.
“Bringing our nation’s disabled heroes back to the outdoors” is the motto of the Hope for Heroes Foundation. Last year, the foundation purchased land, 1,500 acres, near the Clinton/Cumberland County line.
The foundation was the brain child of former New York Police officer Serlin in September 2010.
Serlin is former military with the 101st Airborne Division. He traveled overseas in the first gulf war and joined a police department in New York.
“I retired from there, but my father-in-law was disabled and a veteran. He had asked me several times to take him deer hunting and he is in a wheel chair, so I didn’t know how to get him in the woods. I always wanted to be in the outdoor industry. I thought that would be a good retirement job. It started to dawn on me that there is a lot of disabled hunters out there who need assistance.”
Serlin said he started out donating his time to the Physically Challenged Bowhunters Association and learned what went into helping disabled people when it came to hunting.
Not only does the Hope for Heroes accommodate disabled military, it also accommodates injured police and fire fighters.
“Unfortunately they are the ones who are predominately injured, so they are the ones needing our help,” Serlin said.
Before the organization moved to southern Kentucky, Serlin said they used other people’s properties in order to set up events.
Moving to Southern Kentucky was almost a no-brainer for Serlin, being close to Fort Campbell and Fort Knox.
“A lot of the times, disabled people have circulation problems and they get colder faster. The climate is better for us because they can stay out longer and enjoy the outdoors,” Serlin said.
Getting the nation’s heroes into the outdoors is the main objective for the Hope for Heroes Foundation, but the group is not just about hunting. Hope for Heroes wants to empower the heroes and make them realize they can still get out and enjoy the outdoors and the greater things in life.
With most disabled hunters, specialized equipment is a huge factor in helping the hunters shoot their guns or bows.
Serlin said, as of now, his organization is working with the Wounded Warrior Project on getting applicants for Hope for Heroes.
Being part of a project that helps disabled military, police and firefighters, Serlin said he has sponsors who help the cause by donating hunting supplies like deer stands, ground blinds, optics, fishing poles and other items.
“A lot of the companies have been really good to us,” Serlin said. “They understand that we are trying to get something going here.”
When the disabled hunter comes to Hope for Heroes’ lodge, everything is no cost to the hunter, including lodging and food.
“The only thing they pay for is their licenses and transportation here,” Serlin said.
For more information on the organization, log on to www.heroeshope.org. They also have a Facebook page and can be accessed by searching for “Hope for Heroes Foundation.”
Three hunting and fishing television crews were on hand Friday night at the Hope for Heroes Lodge to kick off its First Annual Cast and Blast Tournament. The tournament combined turkey hunting, which opened in Kentucky Saturday, as well as fishing on Dale Hollow Lake. The Live the Wildlife TV won the tournament by taking a turkey on Sunday, April 14.
Below, Chad Wall, left of Wall Hanger TV, fished with local volunteer guide Jereme Hill and Hero Kurtiss Lamb Saturday.
Top photo by Brett Gibson, Clinton County News. Photo below courtesy of Allen Smith.