Operation Open Arms offers local businesses, associations, and individuals an opportunity to support our active duty troops. We are an all-volunteer 501(c)3 charity in Southwest Florida and are not affiliated with any other Southwest Florida charities.
On April 19, 2005 a US Army forward scout recognized Capt John “GiddyUp” Bunch getting a sandwich (to go) before his second fishing charter on this very same day. Spc Travis Downer asked Capt Bunch where he might try to go fishing from land before returning to Iraq for his second deployment. Capt Bunch asked Spc Downes to check with him before he left for his charter. “I’ll take you fishing this Friday” said Bunch to Downes. “I can’t afford you” said Downes. Capt Bunch recalls his words exactly to Spc Downes. “I don’t recall asking you for any money Travis. This fishing charter is about your service to our country. It will be free of charge. You deserve and have earned a free fishing trip with me.
Operation Open Arms was founded from this one fishing trip. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of OOA is the decision Capt Bunch made about our direction. From 2005-2008 he refused all donations, returned every single check, and enclosed a handwritten Thank You card. He was advised by countless friends to give up the idea of financing OOA via his successful fishing business and become a 501c3 non-profit organization. In June 2009, Operation Open Arms was designated a public charity by the Internal Revenue Service.
To this day, Captain Bunch is still the same hard working professional fishing guide he was in 2005. Operation Open Arms pays no salaries. The charity has no political or religious affiliation. As of this writing, March 31, 2012, Operation Open Arms has provided 1,993 US Troops and their families free combat leave vacations (R&R). Lastly, the OOA network of 200+ sponsors have afforded our troops who can least afford an expensive wedding 94 Free Full Service Weddings.