PLATTSBURGH - In 1991, a program pairing anglers and children with disabilities was born. And, after nearly 20 years, CAST for Kids docked on Lake Champlain.
The CAST for Kids Foundation, or "Catch a Special Thrill," was founded by Jim Owens, who explained the program has now been to 30 countries and 60 events across the country.
"At the time we started it, I happened to be the state Bass Federation president and I was looking for something to do with youth," explained Owens, who is also the executive director of the program.
Owens contacted The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages and protects the water in 17 states in the west, who was looking to "develop partnerships on their bodies of water."
"I said, 'You know, I want to do this for disabled kids, because they're the ones that need the most help in getting out on the water and fishing,'" Owens recalled. "That's where it started, and 19 years later we're still doing it."
However, when CAST for Kids came to Plattsburgh July 11, they had a partnership to make the day even more memorable for the kids involved.
The Wal-mart FLW Fishing Tournament was happening on Lake Champlain, which made for a perfect match to benefit children with disabilities in the area.
"The CAST for Kids contacted the FLW about possibly joining the two events together at one of their stops," explained Kristy Kennedy, group marketing specialist for the Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce. "FLW had actually suggested why don't they try Lake Champlain in the Plattsburgh area."
Kennedy explained CAST for Kids contacted her, asking if it was something the chamber would be interested in hosting, to which she replied, "Let's go for it."
At 7:30 a.m., children swarmed to the Plattsburgh Boat Basin on Dock Street to go out on a boat with a FLW professional angler and learn the tricks of the trade.
Kennedy estimated nearly 40 children came out for the event, which also so help from volunteers of the local Kiwanis Club. In the end, the children left with smiles on their faces.
"Most of them caught good size fish," she said. "I don't think there was actually a kid who didn't catch a fish." "FLW is just fabulous," said Owens. "They're really a family-oriented group. I've worked with a lot of different organizations and agencies all over the United States and some you can tell they're doing it because somebody said they have to. FLW does it because they really believe in it."
For the future of CAST for Kids, Owens said they already plan on returning to Plattsburgh.
"We will be back," emphasized Owens. "I've already talked to some of the local people, and even if FLW isn't here, the local bass club has said that they'll take it on, that they feel that this is such a special event, they want to keep it going."