The boy with the red glasses and spiked hair grinned proudly as he stood in the boat. His dad pulled a hulking largemouth bass out of a live well to show the crowd beside Lake Pleasant. This boy was smiling for good reason: He caught what may have been the biggest fish during Saturday’s C.A.S.T. for Kids event.
The C.A.S.T. (Catch a Special Thrill) Foundation aims to enrich the lives of children with special needs through fishing. Twenty-three Central Arizona Project employees volunteered at the 21st annual event to help make it memorable for the 39 special-needs kids who participated. Volunteers set up, helped kids onto boats, prepared and served food, presented plaques and cleaned up after the event.
There were also 46 professional bass fishermen who donated their time — and boats. Overall, this collaboration between CAP and its partners included 52 registered shore volunteers who helped the children to learn about the outdoors and experience the thrills of fishing in an adaptive and accessible environment.
Kellen, the boy with red glasses, was an example: Before his dad returned the fish to the live well, he had an idea: “I want to do it,” he said, then helped guide the bass into the water. “Get in!”
It was one unique moment out of hundreds for the kids decked out in fishing gear and life jackets. Each child was paired with a volunteer, who taught fishing basics. After returning from a couple of hours on the water and enjoying a volunteer-served lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs, each child received a plaque and trophy commemorating their day. The bond the kids had formed with their guides was apparent by high-5s, wide eyes and stretching smiles.
One of CAP’s core values is volunteerism; Lake Pleasant is CAP’s storage reservoir. So the event is a natural fit for CAP, which delivers Colorado River water to central and southern Arizona.
The boy with the spiked hair and red glasses, like many of the kids, had experienced his first fishing adventure.
“He was real excited,” said Kellen’s dad. “He was just smiling and when he saw the fish jumping, he was even more excited.”
Sure, Kellen’s 17-inch largemouth bass was perhaps the biggest fish of the day. Check out Kellen’s big catch.
But for all kids, the memories with pro anglers were even grander.