The PTSD River Cure | Outside Online
Geege Schuman stashed this in Out of Doors
Steelhead are the real reason for this gathering, but Chad is the excuse. He’s a U.S. Navy veteran who participated in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, served at Guantánamo Bay, and saw combat during Operation Restore Hope, in Somalia, during the infamous Black Hawk Down era. That he came back with post-traumatic stress disorder is no news in this era—since 2001, more than 378,300 U.S. military personnel have sought treatment for potential PTSD from Veterans Affairs facilities—but he’s also an artist, designer, and educator who believes, he told me at breakfast, “in finding a way to radiate your pain outward to help others.”
First casts on the Sandy River. Photo: Corey Arnold
That formula has produced Soul River, a left-right punch of fly-fishing lifestyle brand and do-gooder project that Chad founded in 2013. Soul River is a boutique storefront in the Kenton neighborhood of North Portland, one of the only substantially black areas in the city, where Chad sells gear, books trips, and invites anglers to sip kombucha and contemplate the artistic value of a size five purple Deal Breaker fly. He also sells his own line of gear and clothing, weaponized with touches of military-grade functionality that bring a little urban snazz to the dorky world of drip-dry. The boutique is also home to Soul River Runs Wild, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit through which Chad runs educational trips to help at-risk kids connect with the outdoors. His irresistible twist is to tap fellow veterans to mentor his students. Meanwhile, he’d like to catch a steelhead himself. Just once.
“They’ve been called the fish of a thousand casts,” says Michael Davidchik, the Filipino American, a 39-year-old emergency-room nurse. “Sometimes ten thousand.”
Seems like outdoor therapy is good for many afflictions.