St. Paul officer and therapist wife, both veterans, start fishing nonprofit to combat PTSD ‘one cast at a time’

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St. Paul officer and therapist wife, both veterans, start fishing nonprofit to combat PTSD ‘one cast at a time’
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Lindsay and Richard Puente were poised to start a food truck as a side business to their regular work — he is a St. Paul police officer and she is a licensed professional clinical counselor — when he had a dream that changed their path.

He woke up in June and told Lindsay, who is a veteran like him, that they should begin an organization to take first responders and veterans out fishing to help them deal with the trauma of what they’ve seen in their work.

“I could tell he had a strong conviction and I said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Lindsay said.

Cast & Hook Fishing was off the ground three days later. Their motto is “Combating PTSD one cast at a time.”

Richard Puente and another officer happened to be the first to arrive at the Seventh Street Truck Park bar shooting last month that injured 15 people and killed a woman. It was a busy and difficult night, though it wasn’t the most gut-wrenching of some of the death scenes he’s responded to in his four years as an officer.

Most people in military service do not regularly see people who are deceased, “but I can’t tell you one first responder who hasn’t seen it, smelled it, experienced it,” Puente said.

The Puentes are thankful for resources that are already in place for veterans to get help for post-traumatic stress disorder, but they think it’s more difficult for first responders — especially at a time when law enforcement officers are feeling increased hostility since the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last year.

PEACE ON THE WATER

Both Lindsay and Richard Puente, who have been married for eight years, grew up fishing. “As soon as I could cast a pole, I was probably out there,” he said.

“Being out on the water is my getaway, it’s therapeutic,” Richard said. “I forget about everything when I’m out, so Lindsay and I both wanted to share that with others.”

They spread the word about Cast & Hook on Facebook, and heard back from veterans and first responders offering to volunteer for their organization, and also people who said they could use some help and some time on the water. The Puentes started taking people out on their boat.

So far, Cast & Hook has taken more than 100 veterans and first responders and their families out fishing. Beyond law enforcement officers, they’ve worked with firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, 911 call-takers and dispatchers, and corrections officers.

They don’t ask people questions about their job or PTSD, but Richard said most open up. “There’s a lot of common ground without even having to say anything,” Lindsay added.

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