KOTA Cares: Casting Vets is on a mission to help veterans one fish at a time

Updated: Jul. 27, 2023 at 6:00 AM CDT
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HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (KOTA) - According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 5 million veterans have a substance abuse disorder or mental illness like PTSD or depression.

Transitioning back into civilian life can be tough for some veterans, between finding a job, accessing benefits, and reconnecting with family.

Casting Vets aims to make this transition easier by offering a listening ear and a fishing rod.

“It’s been proven that fishing actually reduces stress by a significant amount. So, we just get these guys out in nature, we take them fishing,” said JR Schaffner, executive director for Casting Vets. I like to tell people, when I take guys out fishing for three, four, five hours a day, I know that in that time frame that they’re not trying to find the answers at the bottom of the bottle, at the end of a needle, at the end of a barrel. For just those couple of hours, they’re safe, they’re okay.”

Members of Casting Vets have taken nearly 200 fishing trips across the Black Hills, even going as far as Chamberlain.

Along with the trips, Casting Vet sponsors a monthly Buddy Night to help veterans and their families connect with community members over food and music.

While the event is hosted in Hot springs, the invitation extends far and wide to anyone who wants to attend.

“To give them that sense of community and comradery is just so critical and really important in their long-term recovery and hopefully they become residents. They may be here for treatment, maybe they become South Dakotans and they want to live here forever. We just want to make sure that they know they’re part of our family,” said Kay Birkholt, board president for Casting Vets.

Buddy Night is held on the third Friday of every month from 5-7 p.m.

You can support Casting Vets by attending one of their upcoming comedy shows, on September 29 at the VFW in Rapid City and September 30 in Hot Springs.

For more information on scheduling a fishing trip head to castingvets.org or message them on Facebook at Casting Vets.

To donate to the non-profit click here.