Last week, Compass highlighted the recent volunteer efforts of the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell as they helped out a Panamanian school. This week, as we wrap up National Volunteer Month, we are featuring the efforts of one Coast Guard officer and how his hard work and dedication impacted military organizations.
It’s 4 a.m. on a Saturday in rural Gray, Maine. While most people are still in bed, a diehard group of volunteers is already in full canter. The sound of snowmobiles and ice augers fills the air while a cold frost permeates the ground. This is game day for Lt. Todd Bagetis and his army of volunteers. Although this is a far cry from Bagetis’ tactical law enforcement team days underway thwarting smugglers or seizing cocaine … he is truly in his element.
Back in 2009, then Lt. j.g. Bagetis was stationed at TACLET South. Bagetis was touched by the fact that his unit was given so much from the USO while they were underway over the holidays and he wanted to be able to give something back. While on leave from his unit, Bagetis found that his 14-year-old neighbor, who aspired to one day serve his country like Bagetis, had recently had an accident that shattered his leg and knee. After undergoing multiple operations, he was able to leave the hospital but yearned for something to do.
Bagetis promised his neighbor he would find a way for him to help out, which sparked an idea for Bagetis to do something great for his community that would combine his love for fishing, help his neighbor and raise money for the military all at the same time.
Bagetis set out to create an ice fishing derby, and throughout the planning process the local Mainers learned that Bagetis’ mantra was “build it and they will come.” His vision was not merely a few people on the lake fishing, but rather a full-scale event that would rival any fishing derby in the state. Bagetis, stationed at Sector Boston’s prevention department where he inspects energy facilities and containers, spent an average of 15 off-duty hours a week making phone calls, sending emails and driving throughout the state to spread awareness about the derby.
The inaugural derby raised a few thousand dollars and was the driving force to make the 2011 Crystal Lake Ice Fishing Derby an even bigger success. The derby boasted dogsled rides, helicopter rides, snowshoe clinics, patriotic shanty decorating and even a polar plunge. Additionally, Medal of Honor recipients, hockey great Raymond Bourque and Maine Governor Paul LePage all made appearances.
In only its second year, the event attracted nearly 6,000 people and raised more than $55,000 for local and state charities, making it the largest fundraiser in the state of Maine for the USO and Maine military organizations.
Bagetis was recently summoned to the Maine state house to be recognized for his efforts and his team of volunteers’ contributions to the state of Maine. While most people around the nation are coming out of their winter slumber and dreaming of beaches and sunshine, Bagetis made it clear that he is counting down the days until his next Maine event.