FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — A local fishing tournament is casting out a line to help the community.
This weekend the 8th Annual Grouper Grapple will be bringing together veterans and avid fishermen from all over Southwest Florida to Fort Myers Beach. And it means a little more than just a rod and reel.
"There’s a lot of good feelings — good feels — come from this.”
On the waters of San Carlos Bay, a fishing tournament is breaking the surface when it comes to community aid.
“We’ve grown from a small group of fisherman that are passionate about fishing, passionate about helping out the vets to a larger tournament and we’ve switched venues a couple of times,” says Ben Duval, events coordinator for Grouper Grapple 2022.
“Our motto is ‘leading families to the bright side of the outside.’”
Like Joshua Bergman, co-founder of Healing Through the Outdoors.
"As a way to get vets together with other vets and to be able to talk about trials and tribulations that they’ve had and to be able to understand that they’re not alone," he says, talking about the non-profit. "To be able to move forward and know that they have a connection to somebody else.”
Proceeds from this year’s grapple will help the organization. They’re also helping out another local cause.
“To help carry on his legacy of helping kids,” says Susan Sommer.
Sommer is the founder of the Jeff Sommer Memorial Scholarship. Named after her late husband, the beloved Estero High School track coach.
"The idea of allowing part of the proceeds from this tournament to go to the scholarship is a big help," she says. "We basically relied on private donations and I love being involved in this.”
Meaning that proceeds are helping those of all ages here in Southwest Florida.
"We have three scholarships," said Sommer. "Two for Estero students- a male and a female- and one for a Lee County student.”
So other than the fishing, there’s something else to look forward to.
"Seeing the groups of guys and ladies coming together and just creating connections,” says Duval.
"It’s like a second family and you help people who need help," said Sommer. "There are many vets who come back that have benefited from it in the past and they’re coming back on their own just to help out.”
You can find more information about the Jeff Sommer Memorial Scholarship online right here.