Quite a catch for area kids

The fish were biting and the smiles were infectious along the Grand Haven boardwalk Wednesday morning as several hundred young special-needs children enjoyed a day on the water as part of Get Hooked. Get Hooked is presented by Pursuing a Dream, a Grand Rapids-based organization that creates outdoor recreational opportunities for those with special needs. Nine-year-old Andy Boos caught a gobi about as big as his finger, but the diminutive size of the fish didn't dampen his day.
Matt DeYoung
May 19, 2011

“I didn’t even know I had it on,” he said with a laugh. “It was fun. My favorite part was catching a fish. I’ve never caught a gobi before.”

Not all the fish caught were pint-size. In fact, a few youngsters hooked up with catfish so large, mentors had to break out a big net to haul them in.

“Last year I caught two sheepshead,” said nine-year-old Carlee Nagy. “I didn’t catch a fish this year, but I saw somebody by me got a big catfish.”

“You could see on their faces that there were many kids here who caught the first fish of their lives,” said Get Hooked organizer Randy Hansen.

Get Hooked has teamed up with Kate Augustyn, the director of special education at Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Augustyn said the children she works with are thrilled to have a chance to spend a morning on the water.

“What it means more than anything is that community and family come together, and these kids get to do things that they don’t typically gets to do,” Augustyn said.

“The kids start talking about it the first of May. We’re just blessed to work with Randy (Hansen) and (Pursuing a Dream founders) Dave and Jane (Owen).”

Dave and Jane Owen started Pursing a Dream nearly a decade ago and have watched it grow over the years to include dozens of hunting and fishing opportunities for young children and adults alike.

“We anted to put something together to benefit the disabled, because it’s such a challenge to get them involved in the outdoors, hunting and fishing,” Dave Owen said. “This event works out so well working with Grand Haven public schools.”

Owen said he loves seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids.

“A lot of these kids probably never fished before and may never fish again, but to see the expressions on their faces, that’s what it’s all about.”

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