Operation Home Shores in Tampa, Fla., is an organization with one goal in mind.
Gian Di Bella partnered with the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System to create the organization. Di Bella spent 10 years in the Navy. After leaving the military, he spent time in Puerto Rico, fishing in the tropical backcountry. Back at home, Di Bella wanted to help other veterans and started sharing fishing spots at Bay Pines.
“I asked guys if they wanted to go fishing,” says Di Bella. “Sometimes I’d show up with fishing poles, sometimes I’d show up with an Audubon field guide to show them what was around them. It gave folks something to do when they had that fight or flight moment. You would see them relax.”
In time, Di Bella and the VA formalized their relationship in 2015 as the nonprofit Operation Home Shores.
Participative sports, like fishing, are promoted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department sees therapeutic value and an improved quality of life for veterans through adaptive sports programs.
Fishing events put on by Operation Home Shores range from the more secluded environment of a mangrove inlet to a major event.
Recently, the group held its 2016 Salty Fly Tournament at the Resort and Club at Little Harbor in Ruskin.