Dolan steps down as Heroes CEO – Jim Dolan founded Heroes on the Water to get veterans kayak fishing

Jim Dolan founded Heroes on the Water to get veterans kayak fishing

Jim Dolan intends to do more paddling and fishing after he leaves the CEO position at Heroes on the Water. Photo Courtesy Jim Dolan
Jim Dolan intends to do more paddling and fishing after he leaves the CEO position at Heroes on the Water. Photo Courtesy Jim Dolan

Dolan’s Journey: from just fishing to CEO to just fishing again

As of December 31, 2016, Jim Dolan will no longer be the CEO of Heroes on the Water, a 501c3 non-profit that serves veterans, active duty military and their families through the pleasure and power of therapeutic kayak fishing.

When Jim Dolan decided to make a change in his journey with Heroes on the Water, the decision was not made lightly, nor did it come easily.

"HOW Nation has been my second family. I have made deep friendships and become awestruck by the bravery of these people," said Jim. "My career was challenging and rewarding. I did my best and I was rewarded in kindness and in friendship. I was privileged to be part of a team which achieved success that we can all be proud of."

Jim started the organization with a simple idea – let's get some guys out and go fishing. It makes everyone feel better, and we all like to fish.

"That very first outing we realized we were on the something. You know what they say – it's often the simplest ideas that have the most power," said Jim. "Once we realized how powerful these experiences were for our warriors, we knew we had to keep going. We had to serve those who had served us so valiantly."

Those early days, while fun, were not easy.

"It was definitely a team effort to keep going. I could not have done it without Kendal Larson, Cody Roberson, Joe Winston, Heather Gardner,Danny Paschall, Aaron Reed, Corey Routh, Dean Thomas," said Jim. "Even then we did not realize how big we could go. We just knew we had to keep going."

It was all the people who stepped forward who ensured that Heroes on the Water went from just a fledgling idea to a full organization helping thousands of veterans across the United States.

"I was overwhelmed by the number of folks who would come to me and thank me," said Jim. "One of the earliest memories was from December 2007, when a soldier treated for Traumatic Brain Injury at Brooks Army Medical Center attended a Heroes on the Water (HOW) event. He stuttered, was slow to process information, and at first did not want to get in the kayak. Once in the kayak, however, he went on to paddle and fish for four hours by himself. When we were helping him out, we asked how his morning went. For 30 seconds he was excitedly talking about how great kayaking was, that he caught 5 fish, and really enjoyed the time on the water. Then, he … and we… realized he was speaking normally. He said that was the first time in two years he was able to speak without a stutter. Although he quickly regressed to his former speech, he said ‘Now I know I can do it. Now I have hope.’ It was at that moment we realized that HOW does significantly more than just kayak fishing."

Of course, there were challenges along with the triumphs. But the belief in serving kept Jim and his team going.

Jim Dolan leaves HOW's  CEO position Dec. 31. Photo  Courtesy Jim Dolan
Jim Dolan leaves HOW’s CEO position Dec. 31. Photo Courtesy Jim Dolan

"We tried all types of things while growing. Some were really great, like developing structure for the chapters to follow, and some not so great, like promising to quickly deliver management software and finding out after that it was going to take a year," said Jim. "It's frustrating when you cannot make everything happen at that moment. We want to move quickly to support our warriors. However, sometimes you have to slow down to do it right, rather than fast. I'm not patient when it comes to serving the need, and I get excited about helping our chapters serve."

Jim recognizes this journey, while not easy, was one he had to take.

"Regardless of the trials, the challenges, and the ups and downs, we had to keep going," said Jim. "Our military community deserves so much for their sacrifice. We may not be perfect, but we never quit."

And quitting is not something Jim intends to do. While leaving his CEO post, he will embark upon his next journey, which will of course include Heroes on the Water.

"I’m going to miss you all … the fun and arguments we had , listening to the Monday morning after action reports, telling us what needs to be done going forward. ” said Jim. "I’m also looking forward to having the time and the freedom to pursue my hobbies and interests including travel, fishing, and hanging out with family and friends."

"Imagine the joy of travelling without an agenda, followed by a trip report, leisurely lunches without worrying you might be sleepy in the afternoon and no more phone calls. Yes, there are compensations in life’s transitions!"

Jim will stay in touch with his HOW family, looking forward to attending events as a participant, rather than an organizer.

"I am so proud of the Heroes on the Water team – from the warriors to the family members to the volunteers and chapter leadership, to my leadership team. You have all contributed in saving lives," said Jim. "Thank you for sharing this this cause with me and thank you for the support and friendship over 9 years."