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Subject: Angling for big smiles and happy kids—
Name: Ken Jones
Date: May-22-08 10:02am

Angling for big smiles and happy kids—North Carolina

Outdoor Outlook
with Mike Marsh

Published: Monday, May 19, 2008

10th Annual Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman's Tournament at Kure Beach Fishing Pier.


It's easy to take fishing for granted, if you are sound of mind and body. But for the less fortunate, fishing is just a daydream.

Transforming that daydream into reality for the tenth year was the Got-em-on Live Bait Fishing Club. The club's Disabled Sportsman's Fishing Tournament had only three-dozen participants its first year. But at the tenth event, held at Kure Beach Fishing Pier on Friday, more than 300 participants and their helpers, along with more than 40 members of the club, filled the pier to capacity. Dawson Freuler and Joanne Galo were tournament co-chairs.

"I recently moved to Wilmington and everyone said I should join the club," Galo said. "Helping these anglers gives me a wonderful feeling. It's overwhelming what they do."

"The anglers look forward to it all year long," pier owner Mike Roberson said. "Some of them live in a facility and it's the only time they get to fish. Most of them say they only want to go fishing. It doesn't matter whether they catch any fish."

Robert Wilson of Wilmington was overjoyed when he caught a bluefish. He carried the fish to assistant weighmaster Steve Combs. The fish weighed 0.35 pounds and wasn't among the leaders. But Wilson didn't care.

"I prayed I would catch a fish and I would be happy," Wilson said. "I saw bubbles from a school of fish when it went by and that's when I caught it."

Applause went through the crowd when 3-year-old Tyler Graham of Leland landed a croaker. His helper, Sylvia Kocherhans, helped him carry the rod dangling the fish to the scales.

"Tyler was so excited when he found out he was going fishing," Kocherhans said. "He has a type of autism."

But any boy who catches a fish is one happy child. The fish weighed 0.4 pounds and Tyler's smile outshone the sunlight gleaming from his fish's scales.

Willie Lesane of Bladen County weighed in a spadefish. It was big enough to win second place.

"I'm paralyzed on the right side," Lesane said. "I can't pick up anything heavy with my right hand. I found out about this tournament through a caseworker and it's the first time I've come. It's been lots of fun."

Keith and Lisa Blivens and Keith's brother, Jackie, drove down from Conover. They didn't win any prizes. But going fishing was reward enough. Keith has crippling arthritis and had bilateral hip replacement. Jackie has severe back problems.

"If Palm Air Cottages hadn't given us a special rate, we couldn't have come with gas prices so high," Keith said. "I come every year. As long as I'm alive, I will always fish this tournament. We can't thank everyone enough."

Keith and Jackie smiled and talked as they baited their hooks with shrimp and cast them seaward. Club president Mike Coleman watched them from beneath the visor of his cap.

"Seeing their smiles is thanks enough," Coleman said. "The appreciation these fishermen have for a half-day of fishing is enough motivation to last you a lifetime.

Today, everyone's a winner."


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