It sounds too good to be true: an all-expense paid trip to beautiful Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to go offshore fishing.
But for John Donovan, who runs a big game fishing company there called RedRum SportsFishing, it’s giving back to those who already gave so much: wounded veterans of the U.S. military.
“It could be the trip of a lifetime for them,” said Donovan, who himself spent a few years in the Marine Corps.
The invitation is also extended to a few individuals of the wounded warrior’s choosing—either immediate family or a few close friends.
Chase Gean was the inaugural participant of the program, called the Baja Brigade. Gean, who served in Iraq and then Afghanistan before being injured in 2006 and is now in a wheelchair, met a member of RedRum’s Baja Brigade board of directors at an off-road race. So RedRum brought Gean, his caretaker, and a close friend down to Cabo San Lucas.
“I jumped right on it,” Gean said of the opportunity. “I had a blast down there. All three of us did.”
Businesses, private donors, and the local community in Cabo San Lucas have rallied around Donovan’s efforts. Donovan called it a “complete outgiving” of any resource they needed.
The warriors’ and their guests’ airfare is covered, as is their lodging. Even the transportation from the airport in Cabo San Lucas to the condos is provided by a transportation company called Translobo. The guests also receive a per diem for spending money. Three restaurants—Misiones de Kino, MigueLocos, and La Dolce—donated food for them in the evenings.
“We were reaching out to owners of restaurants who are Mexican and not Americans,” Donovan said. “And there was no hesitation on their part to provide a meal for Chase and his two friends.”
New Balance donated new boat shoes for the three, Maui Jim sent polarized sunglasses, and BallyHood Lures provided lures for each. In Gean’s case, the company customized a lure with his name, rank, serial number and battalion. Gean said his favorite part of the trip was the deep sea fishing—he grew up fishing, but had never done ocean fishing to that extent before.
He and his friend are planning on going back to Cabo San Lucas next year.
“We really appreciate everything they did,” Gean said.
Donovan said he was first inspired with the idea when at a fishing and tackle show a group of people were collecting contributions for a project for wounded veterans. Donovan said the most difficult and frustrating part of the program has been finding wounded veterans to invite on the trip. They’ve reached out to several wounded veterans groups, but after an initial positive response, they didn’t hear back from the organizations.
“I spent probably a year and a half reaching out to different wounded warrior organizations, military hospitals, and you would get so far with them, and then they just would be of no further help,” Donovan said.
He said they’d like to take down a wounded warrior every quarter. Donovan said Gean, who’s now pursuing an education degree and wants to teach high school history, is helping them look out for another candidate.
“We’d like to have, going into 2011, four candidates all lined up,” Donovan said.
If you know of a veteran wounded in service to our country who would be interested in an all-expenses paid trip to Cabo San Lucas, go to RedRum’s website.