Over the past weekend I made the drive north to Titusville to fish Emily’s 2014 Inshore Fishing Tournament. This is a well put together tournament by Austin and Becca Rouse for the last few years, with the goal of raising money for their daughter, Emily, who is a beautiful and unique little girl at the age of ten that was born with Chromosome 2q36 Deletion Syndrome. Something I’m certainly not an expert at explaining but is a rare occurrence, being the only case ON THE PLANET. Their family consists of one more cutie by the name of Madilynn who is five years old.
I couldn’t imagine what they have gone through in life riding on an emotional roller-coaster, certainly nothing close to a setback I experienced at the age of four, having four fingers amputated via a sixteen year old drunk driver. As people around me can attest, I have certainly bounced back and to this day really don’t think much about it, other than the occasional question of “what happened.” Emily on the other hand, will continually battle the grind of daily activities that we are accustomed to, but showing progress, learning sign language, washing her hands, and feeding herself.
Your heart just sinks and you are certainly humbled when you look at yourself and what you have, what you personally strive for, and then see a family doing what they have to do in order to send their beloved child to school and the obstacles that THEY have to face. This past weekend’s tournament raised close to $10,000, with the help of numerous sponsors giving away free products, guided trips, and services. This is a fraction of what their yearly school tuition is at around $30,000.
Knowing WHY you are REALLY fishing a fundraiser tournament puts a whole new spin on things. Yes, you may still be competitive to a degree, which is a completely healthy feeling, but it feels like one of those days when you just want to get out on the water and relax, knowing you are supporting someone, just by doing something you love!
I had the honor of fishing with a new friend of fifteen years old, Alec Valet, as my partner. We set off into the slightly rising sun on the calm Mosquito Lagoon water, which I have only fished a hand full of times. We had gotten a little bit of intel of where to fish but pretty much went where the water led us, catching a bunch of trout, seeing some amazing redfish and also got a shot at a few of them. We had a great day on the water, making new bonds and a fishing partner for life, and that’s what counts.
I heard the term used, “we’re just a big family”, as the camaraderie at the awards ceremony was full of laughs and joking as the large group of kayak anglers gathered together once again. This is very different than some “money” tournaments I’ve attended, where everyone just stands around and listens to a monotone voice on the loudspeaker with hands in their pockets, waiting for their name to be called for payday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to get paid to fish, I’m just saying the whole feel of the tournament is just, different. The end goal is a complete 180: self, or someone else.
Florida Sportsman recently just completed our annual and successful two month long Kayak Challenge, where we also raise money for a foundation in need, which has been Heroes on the Water. As there is no “captain’s meeting” or “weigh-in”, with everything done online, the same camaraderie is exchanged via the Paddlecraft Forum. Same idea, different means.
I just thought it would be an encouraging piece to write, for there is always someone in need and the sport of kayak fishing is a great vehicle for some of these needs to be met with a fundraiser tournament. It doesn’t matter your skill level, in fact, it would be a great entry if you want to fish more tournaments in the future. But if there is one in your area and you are unable to attend, still, donate, for we look at it from our financial standpoint, but from the other end, it’s the thought (and donation) that counts! A smile through tribulation is priceless.
For more information about Emily or Heroes on the Water, click on their respective links below.