Peg Kingery knows the feeling that comes over her when she steps out into a river and casts her line, hoping a cutthroat trout will rise to the fly.
“It’s a tremendously healing, peaceful, fulfilling activity,” the Moscow fly fisherman said earlier this week while fishing on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. “If fly-fishing can be even a tiny bit to them what it is to me, that would be awesome.”
Kingery is referring to the female breast cancer patients who will have a chance to attend a free retreat next summer a few miles upstream, at Shoshone Base Camp. Kingery plans to volunteer at the retreat, which will include lessons in fly-fishing, medical and psychological counseling, companionship and support from others.
“This is so much more than a fly-fishing retreat. I really want everyone to know that,” said Charlene Douglas, program coordinator for Casting for Recovery North Idaho, which will host the event. “The whole idea is to educate them and let them hang out with fellow survivors and get away from cancer and just enjoy life.”
Douglas’ mother died of breast cancer in 1951, two weeks after Douglas was born. When Douglas had the opportunity to form a local chapter of Casting for Recovery, she said, “It was kind of like my mom saying, ‘OK, kid, here’s your chance.’ ”
Casting for Recovery, a nonprofit organization, was formed in 1996 in Vermont and offers breast cancer patients in all stages of treatment or recovery a free weekend of respite to learn a new hobby, receive counseling and support, and meet other women in similar circumstances. At last count, the nonprofit had 44 programs in 34 states, Douglas said. It has helped more than 4,500 women through its retreats and also has programs in Canada, England and New Zealand.
Douglas urged women to visit the website (castingforrecovery.org/ retreat-schedule) and sign up to be considered for the retreat. The 14 women who attend will be selected by lottery. The organization is also seeking volunteers – both fly fishermen and others – to help support the event. The retreat will cost about $20,000, of which $6,200 has been raised so far, Douglas said. The biggest fundraising event – a dinner and auction – will be held Saturday at the Post Falls Red Lion Hotel.
The fundraiser is one of many events being held during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The North Idaho chapter of Casting for Recovery was formed by members of two fly-fishing clubs – the North Idaho Flycasters of Coeur d’Alene and the Kelly Creek Flycasters in the Lewiston-Clarkston area. The retreat will be open to breast cancer patients or survivors from the 13 counties of North Idaho and five Eastern Washington counties bordering Idaho.
The national organization sets the agenda for retreats and supplies the fly-fishing equipment. It also provides medical personnel and counselors.
“They bring their clothes and their toothbrush, and that’s all they have to bring,” said Dave Londeree, a representative from the North Idaho Flycasters. The goal is for the women “to come out and have a weekend away from husbands and children. They’re just going to have a weekend away from that with nothing to do except relax and take care of themselves.
“And hopefully,” he added, “catch a fish.”