LGF seeing first hand the benefits of a boat ride

Smiles are common on Let’s Go Fishing boats. The non-profit organization has helped thousands of people get out on the water over the last 14 years Contributed photo

Smiles are common on Let’s Go Fishing boats. The non-profit organization has helped thousands of people get out on the water over the last 14 years Contributed photo

Studies have shown that nature has beneficial effects on mental and physical health.

And Let’s Go Fishing’s many chapters in Minnesota are stressing the importance of those outdoor attributes in its mission statement: “Bringing Nature’s Healing and Well-Being to Seniors, Veterans and the Disabled.”

Let’s Go Fishing is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that was established by Executive Director Joe Holm and his wife Carolyn, of Willmar, in 2002.

“LGF liberates people from isolation, loneliness and depression – by giving them boating day trips, and sometimes even fish to catch,” said Holm. “Healthier and happier people are the result.”

Let’s Go Fishing now has 25 chapters throughout Minnesota, as well as one in Wisconsin.

There are over 2,000 men and women that volunteer their time and services to assist within the chapters.

“Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like a job because I enjoy it so much,” said Jim Gauss, the program director for the Let’s Go Fishing Willmar Chapter. “I’ve always enjoyed fishing, and even though I don’t fish when I take groups out because I’m busy putting bait on taking fish off, I still enjoy it so much.”

As well as seniors, veterans, and the disabled, Let’s Go Fishing hosts groups of children, such as Boy Scouts, youth groups, and church groups.

“We can take groups out fishing or just for a cruise around the lake,” said Gauss. “We take them out three times a day (10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.) Monday through Thursday from April to October, weather permitting.”

Groups are taken out on a lake in a comfortable pontoon free of charge, although donations are welcome. The participants can either fish or just relax and enjoy the scenery. Rods and reels, tackle, bait and bottles of water for drinking are all provided at no cost.

It’s all designed to promote health, fun, interaction with others, and to use all of your senses to experience nature.

Let’s Go Fishing founder Joe Holm gets in a photo with a boy on a recent boat cruise. Contributed photo

Let’s Go Fishing founder Joe Holm gets in a photo with a boy on a recent boat cruise. Contributed photo

One of the recent groups that took on LGF cruise was Dethlefs Center in Spicer. There were 11 in the group, and the wind made the lake a little choppy.

“They had a great time,” said Dethlefs Center Director Sarah Lockwood. “It was a little rough out there, and some of them got a little wet from the splashing, but they didn’t mind at all. They all were laughing and had big smiles on their faces. They were all re-telling the story at lunch.”

Let’s Go Fishing previously was state-funded until they were eliminated two years ago due to state budget cuts, leaving them to find ways to generate revenue to alleviate the cost of maintaining pontoons, fuel costs and liability insurance costs.

In an attempt to alleviate some of those expenses, the Willmar Chapter holds fundraisers and attempts to build partnerships with organizations that utilize their services.

“Let’s Go Fishing has come to a place where opportunities are available to expand, upgrade, and maximize our organizational mission to increase and improve our service,” said Holm. “The board of directors (in 2015) approved the creation of partner relationships to form alliances in serving this ever-expanding and demanding need with LGF and our care-giving associates.

A boat of seniors from  Dethlefs Center takes a voyage on Green Lake near Spicer. Contributed photos

A boat of seniors from Dethlefs Center takes a voyage on Green Lake near Spicer. Contributed photos

“By accepting the partnership with LGF, our associate partners will enjoy greater buy in, have permission to advertise our services to their clients and future clients, as a part of their provision of services to their clients/our guests. The partnership program is going well in the first year of a two-year transition. LGF is now inviting selected senior-serving organizations to become Sponsoring Service Partners in providing the life-affirming and health-giving LGF experience for the 2016 year.”

In all, the Let’s Go Fishing chapters have touched the lives of more than 160,000 people during the past 14 years, including 25,000 in 2015.

Gauss has had numerous positive experiences when taking groups out on the pontoon.

“I took a group of boys out to fish in May, and it was kind of cold that day,” he recalled. “This one particular boy was dressed warm, but he didn’t want to go out on the lake.”

After several minutes of persuasion, the boy finally agreed to go along. Soon after, the boy’s demeanor quickly reversed when he landed a fish.

“It was the first fish he had ever caught,” Gauss remarked. “And then he caught another one and another one. When it was time to go quit, he didn’t want to go back in.”

If you have a group that would like to participate in the program, or if you would like to make a donation, please call 320-796-5555 or 888-235-8448.