Disabled kids have a chance to Get Hooked on fishing

About 250 special needs children will get a chance to act like a normal kid later this month when they participate in the fifth annual Get Hooked fishing outing. Get Hooked is a local program under the Pursing a Dream organization, a Grand Rapids-based group that puts on programs designed to overcome barriers that prevent or limit the disabled from enjoying outdoor activities.
Matt DeYoung
May 7, 2011


“We have about 250 special needs kids coming out over those two days, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Grand Haven’s Randy Hansen, a board member at Pursuing a Dream. “We have about 140, 150 elementary school kids coming the first day. We all line up there along the boardwalk and we fish. We’ve done pretty well. We’ve caught a lot of things, usually sheepshead and catfish, of course a bunch of gobies. We’ve caught bluegills, perch and walleyes.”

Pursing a Dream provides all of the tackle, and local bait shops provide bait for the outing.

“We have all the poles set up, and we have a mentor with eight or nine kids,” Hansen said. “The kids come off the bus, we assign them to a mentor, and away they go. That mentor helps them untangle lines, bait the hooks, take off fish, that kind of stuff.”
Each child is accompanied by a parent or guardian, which is a highlight for the kids, according to Hansen.

“That’s a big part of it,” he said. “A lot of the special needs kids also come from disadvantaged homes, so it’s neat that we get the kids and the parents to do something together.”

Hansen noted that more mentors are always needed, and the event is equally as rewarding for those helping the kids as it is for the kids.

“Oh, man, it’s pretty incredible, the feedback we get (from mentors),” Hansen said. “That’s how the name Get Hooked comes in. Once a mentor comes down to help out, they get hooked. They want to help more and more. These kids get a huge smile on their face when they pull up a 4-inch goby. It’s the first fish they’ve ever caught.

“Our mentors fish all the time, and they see the expression on the kids’ faces, reality hits. This is what fishing is all about. It’s an incredible feeling for our participants and our mentors.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with Get Hooked can contact Hansen at 842-6638.



This article is offensive! Could you please explain to me what a "normal" kid is supposed to look and act like? I guess you would be able to tell a "normal" kid from a "not normal" kid by the way they hold their pole? Or can we tell them apart from the "normal" kids by the fact that they come from better homes? You are stereotyping special needs by saying they are disabled, have special needs and a lot of them come from disadvantaged homes?!
Be more considerate, if you had a special needs child THAT is your normal.
I don't doubt this is an excellent program for the children, but get "reel"!


This story is more evidence suggesting that this paper take a closer look at the experience and qualifications of it's contributing editors. The last several week's stories were poorly researched and have bordered on inappropriate. New publisher are you listening. We need to think about non-biased fact based reporting with more research. These kid's just require instruction that is outside of the box, they are not handicapped in any way, on the contrary, they may be extremely gifted. Perhaps these kids might actually develop a revolutionary way to catch fish without a pole.


The author of this article is disappointing and out-of-date at best, offensive and derogatory at worst.

Please (the person who wrote this and certainly whomever signed off on this piece), educate yourself on the use of "PEOPLE FIRST" language that has been the standard for many years.

Please applaud the qualities and skills people have, despite challenges.


I spoke with the author of the article this morning and conveyed appreciation for covering the event. I also informed him of the impact of the phrase “normal kid” has had on many. As the Executive Director for Community Mental Health of Ottawa County, I thought it appropriate to call the author. I feel satisfied that the author of the article understood the issue as presented by many today. All kids are special and all kids are normal.

Dr. Michael Brashears


Thank you Dr. Brashears!


I agree with "agree2dissagree". The term "disabled" certainly does not apply to all children. My son was at the fishing excursion today (May 18) and he had a wonderful time. He's a high-fuctioning autistic child. He's not wheelchair bound, blind, or anything that severe. He's very intelligent, compassionate, and sweet. Like every other child, he has good days and bad days. I also take issue with the term "normal". If the definition of normal is someone who believes in stereotyping, I'd rather be abnormal any day!


I also take issue with two terms in this article: the headline, which labels all special needs children as "disabled". My son attended this event today, May 18, and he is not disabled. He has the use of all his limbs, his eyes, and he is much more intelligent and perceptive than most adults I know. He just happens to be autistic and sees the world a bit differently than the rest of us, but by no means does that make him "disabled".

In addition, I think the term "normal" is a ridiculous one at that. What the heck is normal, anyway? Is it doing what someone else does? Is it trying to blend in with the crowd, avoiding notice or scrutiny?

If being normal means any of the above, I'd rather be abnormal any day! Our heroes throughout history refused that "follow the leader" mentality and changed the world for the better.


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