Ice fishing for a cause has become tradition for U.S. Forest Service co-workers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Every year, a group from the U.S. Forest Service’s Yampa Ranger District hosts an ice fishing tournament at Stagecoach Reservoir to raise money for co-workers or members of their family facing an illness.
The annual Miracle on Ice gathering usually attracts a few dozen people, mostly fellow Forest Service employees, as well as friends, family and neighbors. They congregate from district offices in Yampa, Steamboat Springs, Walden and Laramie and Saratoga in Wyoming.
The tradition started four years ago, around the same time Amber Cramer joined the Yampa office after being hired at a military job fair in Colorado Springs. She spent nearly 20 years in the military, retiring when a progressive spinal cord injury she got during a Humvee accident in Afghanistan prevented her from wearing body armor.
A Minnesota native, Cramer had no idea where she was going to go next or what she would do.
The man who hired her, Josh Voohris, and his daughter Abby were the honorees of that year’s Miracle on Ice tournament at Stagecoach. At age 12, Abby was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Voohris formerly worked on the Yampa Ranger District and now works on the South Park District.
The personal connection motivated Cramer to immediately jump in and become the right hand man for Sam Duerkson, the district’s former fire management officer who started the ice fishing tournament to raise money for the Voohris family.
The event isn’t a Forest Service event — it just grew out of a desire among co-workers to help each other out. Last year, the honoree was a U.S. Parks and Wildlife employee.
Cramer found her place at the Yampa Ranger District office where she provides visitor information, public outreach, runs the Junior Ranger program, and works as a certified interpretive guide.
In addition to helping organize the logistics of the ice fishing tournament, Cramer always reaches out to family and friends and military buddies to solicit donations and makes the rounds of local businesses to secure drawing prizes.
The grand prize for biggest fish is a trophy that is passed down every year, along with a Costco-sized barrel of cheese balls.
That first year and every year since, Cramer is struck by how many strangers pitch in to help.
This year, it is Josh Voohris’ other daughter Ella, 9, who will benefit from the proceeds raised through the tournament. Like her sister, Ella was also diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
“Ella has gone through her chemotherapy and is now undergoing maintenance care,” according to her GoFundMe page. “Resources are needed to help ease worry about medical bills and expenses so the Voohris family can be entirely focused on their little one’s healing and focusing on their family’s needs.”
Now 16, Abby is doing really well, reported Cramer. But it’s just unimaginable the family is having to face it again.
Cramer has gotten to know the Voohris girls at previous tournaments.
“They’re tough,” she said. And they love to fish.
Many of the people again lending a hand don’t know the Voohris family.
“It’s strangers helping strangers,” Cramer said. “It all begins from us treating our co-workers like family.”
The Miracle on Ice tournament will be held Saturday, March 14. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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