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Cathy Villella tries out a good fishing spot. She and her husband, Larry, take disabled veterans on ice fishing trips and are in need of a new auger. Submitted Photo

Group needs new ice auger to take disabled veterans fishing -- will plow snow for donation

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

A broken propane ice auger has left a hole in a local organization's plans to take veterans ice fishing this winter.

Larry and Cathy Villella, who live about 13 miles of Detroit Lakes, are avid ice fishing enthusiasts who run the Fun 4 Disabled Veterans program -- which basically consists of bringing in veterans and their families to use a large fish house on Franklin Lake.

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They brought 40 or 50 veterans and their families out on the ice last year, the first year of the program.

But this year, their Jiffy propane 10-inch auger "crapped out on us," Larry Villella said.

They need $500 to buy a new propane-powered ice auger, since gasoline-powered ice augers spew fumes inside the fish house that can sicken some veterans with lung problems.

They would happily accept the donation of a used Jiffy propane auger, and they are offering to plow out driveways in exchange for a donation towards a new auger.

"We're going to plow medium-sized driveways for $20," he said. "As soon as the first snow comes, we will plow their house."

The ice is only 6 or 7 inches thick on Franklin Lake right now, and it needs to be at least a foot before they can bring out their heavy 5-foot by 10-foot fish house, which easily holds groups of people.

But once it's set up, veterans can call to set up an ice fishing time. The group provides bait, fishing equipment, and "pretty much everything they need to do ice fishing," Villella said.

The state provides free fishing licenses to veterans who are 100 percent disabled because of service-connected health problems, Villella said.

"We'd sure like to get the word out to any disabled veterans who wants to go ice fishing," he said.

The ice fishing is always fun, he added, but many veterans also enjoy the chance to talk and share stories with other veterans.

"It's the camaraderie," he explained.

Most of the veterans who went ice fishing last year were Vietnam veterans, "the retired guys," Larry said, but some were veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Everyone is welcome. Disabled veterans and their families can call Larry at 701-371-2327 to set up a time to ice fish.

Donations can be made online at Fun4disabledveterans.com, and volunteers at the fish house are always welcome, Larry said.

Larry is a disabled Navy veteran and he has two brothers who are also disabled veterans, Sandy, who was in the Army and Peter, who was in the Marine Corps.

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