by Cheryl Senn
On a recent fall morning, more than 35 children and young adults from the Fresno Break the Barriers (BTB) program, were hosted by the Make a Difference Outdoors program for some assisted fishing at the home of Peggy Mehling, in Sanger. Both BTB and the Make a Difference Outdoors programs are non-profit organizations.
Six members from Fairmont 4-H, a local Sanger 4-H club, assisted the participants with setting up the fishing poles, baiting casting, and retrieving the fish they caught. Volunteers included Rylee Rocca, Matthew Newton, Kayla Cornelius, Brandon Cornelius, Xena Senn and Kristen Schiavon.
Robert Dunlap, from the Make a Difference Outdoors program, said, “We strive to enable people with disabilities to get an outdoor experience.”
BTB was originally focused on providing sporting activities for disabled veterans and is now expanding its programs to include all community members of all abilities. “We actively participate in all communities to make a difference in our diverse world, breaking all barriers experienced by people of all abilities,” as stated on the BTB website. Make a Difference Outdoors originally was formed to honor veterans and planned sporting activities for them as well.
This is the second fishing event the Make a Difference Outdoors organization has hosted on the Mehling property for 2013. The first fishing excursions took place in April this year and prior to this fishing day, the ponds were stocked with rainbow trout.
According to Dunlap, the reason the Making a Difference Outdoors program has expanded to children and other community members is to see all the smiles it creates on the faces of the participants. “Look at the smiles…that’s what’s important, “said Dunlap.” When they catch one it’s worth more than a million dollars.”
Among the fishing participants, there was a family with 12 children. Of the 12 children in the Wong family, eight were adopted and some of them had never experienced fishing in their entire lives. Blythe Wong, who is 15, had spent the first 13 years of her life in an orphanage in China before being adopted by the Wong family. Blythe’s mother, Tamara, said, “It’s nice to get away,” because the family lives in town and she said this was the first fishing experience for Blythe.
Gary Howery, with BTB, participates in the sporting events and is also a mentor to children in the program. Howery said, “You don’t’ see this happen every day,” about the fishing experience for the children. “Once in a lifetime, it is nice to try something new.”
Most of the BTB children and young adults were wheelchair bound, missing limbs, have deformed limbs or have mental or medical issues.
In addition to taking home the fish they caught, participants took home prizes too. Stuffed animals, basketballs and soccer balls were given away during the fishing event.
Fairmont 4-H volunteers, Rocca and Senn, said they really enjoyed assisting with the fishing experience. “It was a lot of fun.” After a few hours of fishing, a barbecue lunch was provided for all the participants and volunteers.
Mehling said she loves sharing her property with people, especially for this kind of activity. “They always have a good time while catching fish!”
“What a blessing,” said Tamara, about the opportunity for her children to get out, in the country and go fishing.
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