A single step: that’s all it takes to start making a difference in your community. For locals in Astoria, Oregon, that single step blossomed into so much more.

A simple salmon derby—thought up to support those less fortunate in the area—grew into an annual fundraiser supporting service members and their families.

The Beginnings of the Salmon Derby—and its Growth

STACK Infrastructure’s 20th annual Heroes of the Sea Fundraiser and Salmon Fishing Derby returned to Astoria, Oregon, recently. But now it is much more than just a charity fishing tournament.

Tournament fishing at the 20th annual Heroes of the Sea Charitable Fundraiser and Salmon Fishing Derby

Sure, individually sponsored derby boats are outfitted with anglers and gear, and the goal of each boat is to bring in the largest salmon yield after a full day of fishing. But the overall goal is one that is more substantial for the community: to raise funds to benefit the Pacific Northwest Chief Warrant Officers Association (CWOA), a nonprofit, community-based organization that represents active duty, reservist, and retired Chief Warrant Officers of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The CWOA has been helping the true heroes of the sea since 1929—and this year, we celebrate two decades of helping our local veterans, their families, and the community at large through our Heroes of the Sea charitable fundraiser and salmon derby.

Data center industry veteran Jim Linkous and his friend launched the Salmon Derby as a fishing tournament to raise money for those less fortunate in the community of Astoria two decades ago. When Linkous became Senior Vice President, Client Executive at STACK, he brought the Derby with him, renamed it Heroes of the Sea, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ty Miller, Chief Commercial Officer, STACK Americas presents Heroes of the Sea 2022 check to the Pacific Northwest Chief Warrant Officers Association of the U.S. Coast Guard.

STACK purposefully maintains Heroes of the Sea as a modestly intimate event, the amount raised has grown along with its impact—the first year, $750 was raised, $2,000 the second year, then $60,000. In 2021, $240,000 was raised, and last week, the 20th annual Heroes of the Sea Charitable Fundraiser and Salmon Derby raised an incredible $320,000, nearly doubling the lifetime contributions.

A Partnership between STACK and the U.S. Coast Guard

Committed to giving back, STACK worked with Linkous to further the event’s impact and lend support to a group that is often overlooked—the U.S. Coast Guard. Considered one of the most under-recognized groups of heroes in the United States, there are nearly 42,000 members, but they serve all over the world.

While most associate the Coast Guard with search and rescue, they are involved in so much more. Members of the Coast Guard assist with port security, hazard spills, navigation, and taking care of the ecosystem. They also protect subsea cables that allow international communication and data transfer. The Coast Guard does a lot more than most realize.

Tour of U.S. Coast Guard base in Astoria, OR during Heroes of the Sea 2022

Various Coast Guard members have their own associations and organizations to help those less fortunate, and that’s how STACK joined forces with the Chief Warrant Officers Association (CWOA) in the Pacific Northwest Region to raise funds for service members and their families within their local community and across the country.

Often transient, moving their lives and families for a new rotation every two to four years, Coast Guard members are continually doing great work in seaside communities, but with very little resources.

 With funds raised during the annual Heroes of the Sea event, CWOA can help give the community what resources they need.

Heroes of the Sea attendees gather with U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Astoria, OR.

Finding the Need

For one particular family, the CWOA made a lasting impact. They had lived in their home for more than 10 years—and then there was a terrible fire, and they lost everything. The family didn’t know to ask for help, as they are usually the ones helping via the Coast Guard, but the CWOA gave them a check that helped them get back on their feet—and that’s just one example.

The amount of relief that the CWOA provides is a safety blanket that opens doors not just for members of the Coast Guard and their families, but for the community at large. Their next goal was to help local children, which led to the establishment of The Pacific Northwest Chief Warrant Officers Association Scholarship to help graduating students further their post-high school education.

(L to R) Jim Linkous, Senior Vice President, Client Executive at STACK, and Dean Johnston, president of the Pacific Northwest CWOA, during tour of U.S. Coast Guard base in Astoria, OR during Heroes of the Sea 2022

They targeted three high schools and one community college and looked for candidates who exhibited the values of the CWOA: stewardship, community, and fraternity. They received many deserving applicants. Dean Johnston, president of the Pacific Northwest CWOA, was a part of the selection committee and remembers being shocked at the applications. “It was eye-opening,” he says. “These students are going through some pretty stressful situations. They all have their own unique stories, and we were excited to play a part in shaping their stories as they graduate and look for new opportunities.”

Barbie Ogo, Vice President of the Pacific Northwest CWOA, agreed with the sentiment, mentioning that it was an honor to give these very deserving kids scholarships. “I was just super surprised at how smart and talented all of them are,” she notes. “Not only that, but they have these common characteristics that we hold [in the Coast Guard], like community of stewardship. The students were very involved with their school, the community, and their education.”                             

For Ogo and the CWOA, helping higher education become a reality for youth within the communities they serve is the ultimate goal. With eight scholarships currently awarded each year, they aim to expand. “Our future goal is to widen the scholarships’ reach to other Coast Guard communities within the Northwest,” Ogo explains.              

Common Characteristics, A Common Goal

While Ogo’s goal is lofty, it is attainable. And as partners to the CWOA, STACK is proud to help expand the non-profit’s impact. While nearly 60% of STACK’s Critical Operations employees are veterans who have served our country, the commonality doesn’t end there.

(L to R) Jim Linkous welcomes attendees and Brian Cox, Chief Executive Officer, STACK Americas on first day of Heroes of the Sea 2022.

“People that serve have got a different DNA,” Linkous says. “They show up, take orders, and do the detailed, meticulous work that they are trained to do. And it's very much the same way in our [data center] world. Our people at STACK are committed and get the job done.”

The Future Looks Bright                          

The CWOA is actively working towards its goal of bringing in other foundations and establishing a sustainable endowment, as well as delivering an even wider and greater impact to veterans across the country. They’re using part of the funds raised from the Heroes of the Sea Charitable Fundraiser and Salmon Derby to further this growth initiative. 

Want to make a difference in the lives of our Heroes of the Sea? Make a donation today!