By Samantha Joseph
STUART - One of the area's favorite past times will benefit some of its most overlooked residents, thanks to a project by a local nonprofit.
Wounded Warriors of South Florida have organized a fishing tournament to raise funds for former soldiers injured during deployment.
The event is set for Sept. 14-15 at Port Salerno's Pirate's Cove Resort & Marina, located at 4307 Southeast Bayview St., Stuart.
It will start with a kickoff party at the Pirate's Loft restaurant on Sept. 14 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the tournament set to begin at 7 a.m. the following day and end with an awards reception at 4 p.m.
The tournament is set to become the first of a series of annual fundraisers.
Organizers hope it will generate between $25,000 and $30,000 for their cause, which includes helping injured soldiers readjust to civilian life.
"Hopefully the public will embrace this and embrace these wounded warriors," said John Jamason, event organizer and co-founder of Wounded Warriors South Florida, which serves veterans from Fort Pierce to Key West.
"These veterans would suffer if it weren't for organizations like us."
The regional group is not affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project, a multi-million-dollar national agency.
Organizers said the smaller group provides support on a more intimate level, helping injured former soldiers, who often struggle with unemployment, cover personal expenses.
Often, ex-military personnel wait for up to two years for financial assistance from federal programs, such as Social Security and the Veterans Administration, he said, and so need help meeting daily and emergency expenses.
"They get into this horrible grey area that causes a lot of anxiety and leads to divorce, depression and suicides," he said.
That's why 91 percent of all the funds raised through Wounded Warriors of South Florida projects go directly to veterans, with only 9 percent used for administrative expenses, the group said.
"Nobody in our organization takes a penny in salary," Mr. Jamason said.
Administrators are inviting boaters who love in- and offshore fishing to participate in next month's tournament, which is open to small and large vessels on the river or in open waters.
The group has also added a rule to place a veteran or "wounded warrior" on each vessel.
"It's very cool to talk to these guys," Mr. Jamason said. "They've been through a lot. They just may make a friend out there."
For more information, call (772) 245-8227 or visit www.wwofsf.org.