CAMANCHE — Fishing is one of the United States’ most popular outdoor recreational activities and according the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, in 2011 more than 33 million people participated in the sport.
It is also one of the most casual and cost effective activities nationwide but participating in angling pleasure isn’t always as simple as baiting a hook and casting a line.
For nearly 60 million Americans who suffer from disabilities — physical, cognitive, mental, emotional and everything in between — fishing is a difficult task that many may never get to experience. Because of that, Fishing Has No Boundaries, a non-profit organization from Hayward, Wisconsin, created a program that aims to teach everyone, despite their physical or mental restrictions, the joys of fishing.
Now, that idea and a chapter of the organization has set up shop in eastern Iowa and they are ready to kick-off their first-ever Fishing Has No Boundaries event.
“I saw through personal experience how difficult it is for people with disabilities to get involved and do different things and I’m trying to change or get involved with that to give them a chance to do something they may have never done before,” Fishing Has No Boundaries Eastern Iowa Chapter chairwoman Allie McGraw said. “We’re trying to get them out there to build some friendships that they might not have an opportunity to build on their own.”
McGraw started the first and currently only Iowa chapter of the Fishing Has No Boundaries organization in March 2013, after watching a family member struggle with losing the ability to enjoy fishing the way she used to.
After doing some research, McGraw discovered the organization and began looking in to ways to get involved.
Just a short time later, she along with four other board members created the first Iowa chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries and now the rest is history.
“Being an occupational therapist, I kind of thought if there was something out there that could help I would find it,” McGraw said. “I researched it quite a bit before I started and reached out to my grandfather and we took it from there.”
But, creating an organization is one thing. McGraw wanted to truly reach out and make a difference for people which is when she began planning for the Fishing Has No Boundaries event, which will take place at 8 a.m., June 7 at Rock Creek Marina and Campground in Camanche.
In its first year, the Fishing Has No Boundaries event in Camanche has already generated well over the anticipated participation than originally expected at 36 fishermen. McGraw added they were only going to allow 15 participants on the group’s first venture, but after receiving feedback from local disability service companies, they decided to expand that number.
“When we first started, we wanted like 10 to 15 participants just to keep it simple,” McGraw said. “After we talked to these agencies and they asked why we only were allowing that many, we decided we would try to go with 30 and see how it turned out.”
Twenty-three of those participants will take part in fishing from boats with captains volunteering their time and resources for the event, and the other 13 will fish from the shore at Rock Creek.
In addition to the volunteer captains, dozens of others have stepped up to assist McGraw and the rest of the Fishing Has No Boundaries organization to make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible.
Because some of the participants suffer from a variety of disabilities, staff members from local support service agencies will also be in attendance to monitor the various participants.
The group will also offer training in the morning before the fishing begins to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable outing.
“I think there will be some that family members will come with them, and if they have specific handicapped services there will be trained staff members to help out,” McGraw said. “We are also providing assistance from our volunteers who will go through training that morning so, I think all around it’s going to be a really great time.”