On River Time

0913-Arts-2As published in Birmingham magazine.

A nonprofit offers children an escape that allows them to recuperate from abuse.

Steve Davis, a Texas native and executive at McGriff Seibels, exudes the confidence and ease of a high-powered businessman who travels from coast to coast for work. But beneath this polished veneer is a man committed to bringing light to a dark subject, a subject often shrouded in shame, fear and guilt — one he’s all too familiar with.

Davis was 35 years old before he spoke about the abuse he experienced as a child.  Today, through On River Time, the non-profit organization he founded in 2012, Davis hopes to give children ages 9 to 16 who’ve endured abuse and neglect a chance to heal through fly fishing on the Snake River in Idaho.

This month he plans to take a group of 10 children on an all-expense paid trip to the Orvis endorsed fishing lodge, The Lodge at Palisades Creek, in tiny Irwin, Idaho. There, many children who have never flown on a plane before, will experience nature’s grandeur, the gift of fellowship, meditative moments floating down one of the most beautiful rivers in the world and a chance to feel God’s grace.

Along with the publication of his novel about a man coping with abuse he experienced as a child, “Picking Butter Beans,” Davis recently signed a lease for new office space, and the board appointed Jeana Durst as On River Time’s first executive director. Davis envisions On River Time continuing to partner and serve other nonprofits like the Big Oak Ranch, which has chosen participants, based on their leadership, good behavior and effort, for the past three trips.

Casting a fly with just the right motion to keep the wind from catching it and hooking it in an unsuspecting tender spot requires patience and perseverance. The water changes current frequently, and the trout are always smart enough to know the difference between a real and fake fly, Davis says. To fly fish with some success, “You have to understand and trust the rod, feel the line, trust yourself and don’t give up.”

Those lessons show up throughout the trip, he notes. Time on the river offers an opportunity for these children to tune into the mysterious rhythm of the river and regain a lost part of themselves. River time is a time for them to learn to trust themselves again, to trust others and to gain confidence. The discipline and skills they learn on the river help establish the foundation they need to pursue their dreams.

In the future, Davis plans to create a college scholarship fund, and, eventually, give the participants an opportunity to work at The Lodge during the summer. He also wants to build an On River Time cabin to house the children, leasing it during the year and using the funds to support the program.

Davis sometimes inscribes copies of his book with the message “Do what matters!” Through the healing power of the river, Davis is determined to do what matters by breaking the cycle of abuse and changing how survivors view the world and themselves.


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