WNY Heroes hold annual fishing event in Dunkirk

For the veterans

OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek Don Mullen (left) and Matt Schumaker (right) helped Jacob Wiesnet (center) catch a walleye weighing 8.65 pounds during the WNY Heroes event, Friday.

Friday morning was a very good day to go fishing. In fact one, World War II veteran remarked at the Western New York Heroes Inc. annual get together, it was “the most fun I have had in the last 10 years!”

You might be wondering what is WNY Heroes Inc. and what does it have to do with fishing? Read on, my friend. Over three years ago at the Hamburg Outdoor Show, two friends were sitting around during a lull in the action and had a discussion. Chris Kreiger, a former Iraq Veteran and the president and Co-Founder of WNY Heroes Inc., was telling Jim Steel, a Charter Boat Captain, and owner of Innovative Outdoors, about his group. In short, WNY-H offers financial assistance to men and women who have served in the military, including widows of veterans and children of deceased vets. These people are provided with access to essential services including financial assistance and resources that will support their lives with dignity.

Kreiger mentioned he would like to find an activity that these veterans could take part in to enjoy some quality of life — something that every one of them could participate in. Jim Steel just smiled and said, “You get me the vets and I’ll get you the boats to take the heroes fishing!” The rest is history.

For the past three years, Kreiger — with assistance from Program Director Lynn Magistrale, another Iraq veteran — reached out to veterans who would like to experience fishing on Lake Erie in a safe, secure environment, and come back with some pleasant memories and a bunch of fish. This year, the program has grown to 120 anglers participating in the annual event. Each veteran received notice of the time and date, and they met at Chadwick Bay Marina for Tim Horton’s coffee and Tim Bits, check-in and boat assignment. Most of the boats that participated were members of the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Boat Association and Erie County Charter boats. In addition, many of the anglers who compete on the local walleye circuit stepped up to the plate to lend a hand.

There were 40 boats for this year’s event, and they all caught fish ranging from 17 inches up to lunker size like the big walleye of the day caught by Paul Szablicki, who was fishing with Jacob Konstabel — that fish weighed 9.24 pounds.

OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek Pictured are some of the participants of the WNY Heroes fishing event, in Dunkirk, Friday.

Several other outstanding fish were weighed in, including the second heaviest walleye at 8.65 pounds caught by Jacob Wiesnet, who was fishing with Don Mullen and Matt Schumaker. Those anglers received a nice momento and an assortment of lures. Every angler and volunteer received a commemorative T-shirt, boonie hat, water and snacks.

Shortly after 7 a.m., they were on the water with instructions to return and weigh-in their big fish. They then headed to the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club for dinner, which included roast beef, BBQ chicken, macaroni and potato salad, green salad and cookies. There were lots of smiles during dinner. This event was paid 100% by donations. There is no federal money fueling WNY Heroes Inc.

Kreiger was turned away when he returned home from the service and commented that he lost everything he owned, including his house and vehicles. Others have also experienced the same ordeal, so Kreiger and his core of friends reached out and decided to do something about it. WNY Heroes Inc. (not to be confused with similar sounding groups) received grant money and donations, to provide an opportunity for veterans to help themselves.

The Friday event was made possible by the generosity of Church Tackle Co., the Eastern Lake Erie Charter Association, Innovative Outdoors, Black Hat Chimney and Fireplace, Holiday Harbor, The Sleeman’s for the T-shirts, Bill’s Hooks, the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club and Brunners Bayside Catering, along with private donations from donors and, of course, all the captains who donated their time and boats to make this event possible. At the end of the event, Jim and Diane Steel were presented with an engraved statue for their time and generosity. When asked how many of the participants would like to come back next year, the reply was positive, loud and unanimous.

If you or someone you know would like more information on WNY Heroes Inc. go to www.wnyheroes.org or call 630-5020 or 374-1129.

OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek Pictured is the welcome banner for the Dunkirk event, free for veterans.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today