Getting hooked on a great experience

When Grand Haven resident Paul Lachmann read about the "Get Hooked' event, a local program whose objective is to offer special-needs children an opportunity to enjoy a morning of fishing on the Grand Haven boardwalk, he felt compelled to volunteer.
Nate Thompson
May 19, 2012

“Get Hooked” is presented by Pursuing a Dream, a Grand Rapids-based organization that creates outdoor recreational opportunities for those with special needs.

Lachmann was one of approximately 25 mentors from Pursuing a Dream who baited hooks, untangled lines and unhooked fish for the smiling children from Grand Haven Public Schools.

“I read about it in the Tribune actually while I was on Spring Break,” Lachmann said. “I saw it as a great opportunity to get involved and provide a wonderful experience for special needs kids.”

Lachmann lost his son five years ago to shaken baby syndrome, and since the tragedy, he has come to have a better appreciation of strong-willed parents who raise children with special needs.

“This create opportunities that not everyone here gets to experience,” he said. “This is my first year, but it definitely isn’t my last.”
Lachmann said his favorite moment was brightening the day of one child who had been shut out for most of the day.

“I snuck back, put a gobi on the hook and cast it out, and handed it to him, and said, ‘Here, I think I may have something.’ He reels it in, and you see this smile a mile-wide spread across his face. It made his day.”

Friday, more than 100 children in mostly middle school and high school enjoyed a similar brightening experience after they reeled in the pint-sized gobi, or the occasional larger sheepshead. On Thursday, 150 elementary-aged children soaked up the experience. Get Hooked organizer Randy Hansen said he’s seen first hand the positive affect the 6-year-old vent has on the children.

“I’ve heard from their teachers,” he said. “The kids are talking about it afterwards for a week.”

Tom Blackmer’s son, Ethan, might have fooled his father when the end of his fishing pole sprung downward.

“I thought he was just in the rocks,” the Grand Haven resident said. “But then his pole started shifting back and forth and I was like, ‘Whoa!’”

Blackmer helped Ethan reel in what they believed was a northern pike and they had taken plenty of pictures on their smart phone to capture the experience.

For Ethan, 12, it was his second-straight successful year of fishing with Get Hooked. A year ago, he said he snagged a catfish.

Gobi were the most plentiful of fish hauled in, including on the end of the line of 11-year-old Kevin McCombs of Grand Haven, and eight-year-old Melody Perez, a student at Griffin Elementary.

Get Hooked again teamed up with Kate Augustyn, the director of special education at Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Grand Haven High School teacher Derek Warner’s outdoor education class also provided several student volunteers to ensure the event ran smoothly.




Thank you Mr. Lachmann for your help! It is an awesome experience for these kids, and God Bless you for finding room in your heart to reach out to them.


What an amazing day. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to read this story. You have done a wonderful job here and it sounds like the kids had a great time at this "get hooked" event.


Doing entertainment for special needs kids is always a wonderful thing to do and they will love it and remember it for the rest of their lives.


Special children have special needs. Thanks to some concerned individuals, they are making sure they get 'em. -
Joe Aldeguer

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