The Maryland fly fishing community recently lost a conservation leader and educator. Don Haynes held leadership positions for Maryland Trout Unlimited, the Mid-Atlantic Council of Trout Unlimited, and was recognized at the national level for the Trout Unlimited Distinguished Award for leadership. His leadership brought the “gold trout” award for the Maryland Chapter recognizing a chapter that exemplifies the mission of Trout Unlimited. I had only known Don for three years, but his passion and capacity to accomplish goals were unquestionable.  

Don Haynes – Photo Courtesy of Tom Gamper

The service celebrating Don’s life was yesterday at Towson Presbyterian Church, where the MDTU meetings have been historically held. As I sat in the church listening to the kind and inspirational words shared about the impact of Don on his family, coworkers, students, and friends, I looked around the church. Nearest to me in the church were members of the Maryland Trout Unlimited board, a wonderful collection of men and women dedicated to volunteering their time to work together for cold-water resource conservation. 

Don and Norma Haynes accepting the Gold Trout Award from Trout Unlimited President, Chris Wood – Photo Courtesy of MDTU

I felt compassion for Don’s family and the hole that his passing leaves in their lives, but I also felt grateful for the opportunity to have known him and built connections with him and all the members of the board. Don dedicated his life to teaching as an international studies professor at the University of Baltimore and later in his life he built a love for fly fishing and volunteered with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. 

Volunteering meant so much to Don and helped him leave an even bigger legacy. I have appreciated how volunteering has benefited me over my life, but it struck me how important volunteering is to so many of the people celebrating Don’s life, especially his wife, Norma. Spending your time in service of others or to the environment enriches yourself and those around you. The joy Don and Norma felt in their community service showed through each element of the service and the people in their lives.

Community service is one of the most rewarding things we can do with our time. It enables us to make new friends and contacts, improve social and relational skills, and improve our emotional and physical health. Research has shown that volunteering helps to combat depression and to have a lower mortality rate than those who don’t volunteer. I have found working with folks with different communication styles, skill sets, and perspectives has helped me in my career and family life. Problem solving, teamwork, task management, project planning, and communication are all abilities you can gain and improve upon through community service. Increasing our sense of purpose and sense of community is incredibly important for a fulfilling life.

Within the fly-fishing community there are many opportunities to volunteer. Obviously, Trout Unlimited is important to me, but other groups are looking for additional participants. Project Healing Waters helps to connect veterans to the benefits of fly fishing. Casting for Recovery provides fly fishing and therapeutic support for women living with breast cancer. The Mayfly Project brings together foster children with mentors through fly fishing. Groups like Potomac Valley Fly Fishers focus on fly fishing education through outings, fly tying classes, mentoring and conservation efforts. Other opportunities exist through state and federal agencies, like the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service to help further their initiatives and improve or protect the resources they manage.

Looking back at my blogs, I noticed how the loss of friends, family and mentors has impacted me. The sadness of the loss is powerful, but the uplift of the memories and lessons left with me carry on. Networks of the people we connect to are enhanced by everyone who cares to contribute. Through the intention and generosity of volunteering, you expand yourself and your world more than you realize. We should follow Don’s example to serve our communities following our passions and positivity. 

Keep Mending…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *