The 14th annual CAST for Kids event hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation's Phoenix Area Office began under overcast skies that did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the participants. Reclamation, in conjunction with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District and the Bass Federation, welcomed a record number of guests, volunteers and family members for another great day of fishing and fun.
Mr. Jim Owens, founder and executive director of the CAST for Kids Foundation, returned this year. A regular at most of our events, it was great to have him back again. The Lake Pleasant event is always impressive with a vast array of volunteers from Reclamation, the Central Arizona Project, and especially all of the Bass Federation boat captains who volunteer their time, their gas, their boats, and their fishing expertise as they head down to the 10-lane boat ramp to launch another adventure for a disabled or disadvantaged child.
The kids go through the registration line like clockwork, picking up their hats and t-shirts and fishing gear and other essentials before heading out to choose a boat and captain that appeals to them. Several hours on the lake resulted in many fish being caught and released (which is the best way to do it because then they can get bigger as the day goes on). One parent accompanies each child, and other family members stay behind to enjoy casting practice and the birds from Liberty Wildlife.
Manager Randy Chandler introduced Tom McCann and Greg Ramon of the Central Arizona Project, and Reclamation's mascot Otto the Otter (Geoff Keller's son Curt, returning for the second year) joined them in helping to hand out trophies, plaques, and goody bags. Easter baskets, donated by the employees of CAWCD and WalMart, were presented to the children by a CAST for Kids alumni, Dakota Johns. Dakota attended many CAST events as a participant but when he exceeded the age limit, he decided to come back as a volunteer and help out!
Before trophies were presented, Randy said, "The partnership between Reclamation and the Central Arizona Project employees is what brings this day together. This wouldn't be possible without CAP's donations of time and supplies for the event. It takes months of planning and lots of work." He also thanked the Bass Federation and all the other agencies, sponsors, and contributors that make the event so successful each year.
Long-time coordinator Stephen Johnson retired after 30 years of Reclamation service and 13 years of acting as the coordinator of the CAST for Kids event. While he was greatly missed, we did have a volunteer step up and take over the Coordinator role. "The new coordinator is also new to our office, Mike Fyffe, and he's done a great job pulling the event together and being very resourceful, especially considering he had never been involved with this before," Randy said. "Thanks for taking this on."
Mike says that even though this was his first CAST for Kids event, he will never forget it and it's become a cause he will continue to support. He attributes the success of the day to teamwork between the volunteers who took ownership of their tasks, from the setup people to the organization of the kid’s registration to the cooks that brought the grills and were cooking out in the sun until the last of over 300 people had their food.
Mike was ably assisted by Brenda Paquette, who has been helping with the CAST event for many years. This year she not only helped Mike with all aspects of the planning, she took over many of the tasks (and a few extras) that had been handled in the past by another long-time Reclamation employee who retired last year, Ellen Stender. Mike said, "Brenda was the backbone of this whole event. She was the best partner that anybody could ask for. Without Brenda’s advice and direction I believe the event wouldn't have turned out the way it did.
"I would like to say I am so grateful to have the privilege and opportunity to be a part of something that means so much to special needs children. The giving of the sponsors and volunteers is what made this event so successful: their gifts, time, and kindness were incredible. I have learned so much from the kids and their parents, listening to their stories and watching their faces light up with excitement. The work that was put into this event by everyone to make it so successful is nothing compared to the struggles the children and parents face every day. I will be looking forward to being a part of this event in some form or another from now on," Mike says. Then he added, "I guess I could say I'm hooked."
Brenda says her job on the day of the event is to gather the kids and register them in the morning.
"I enjoyed seeing new faces and some that have been coming the last few years and watching their excitement. That's my favorite part!" she says. This was the first year doing the photos digitally, and Brenda was concerned about getting them all printed and assembled in time. "But all went well," she says, "And a special thanks to those involved: Vicky Campo of CAP, Maria Quijada-Lopez and Sandy Eto!"
Brenda thanks all of the boat captains, volunteers and the special kids and their parents for sharing their day and making it such a successful event!
"A special thanks to Mary Ann Powers and all the folks who rallied around to help us gather the needed supplies when our funds were too depleted. They really came through for us," Brenda says. "We look forward to next year and our newly acquired partnership with the Fire Fighters Union folks who have pledged to help us with our fundraising and volunteering at the event next year. They are a super bunch."
Brenda adds that there were over 105 volunteers. "It really shows the generosity of folks that come and spend their time to make this event so successful!"
Back to the awards presentation!
Randy handed the microphone over to Jim Owens who presented a Special Service Award Plaque to Dave and Brenda Hagan. They have coordinated the boat captains for the event each year, ensuring a boat is available for each child. They make the day extra special by donating so much of their time and efforts, and they were recognized for their many years of service to the CAST for Kids event.
Ten years ago, young Jonathon Coleman came down from Payson to attend our event despite physical problems predicted to be terminal within a year. He had so much fun that, according to Jim, he announced, "I can’t die this year because I have to come back to fish again." Jonathon continued to attend for 10 more years, finally losing his battle at Christmas of 2012. His grandfather, Harold Coleman, attended and accepted condolences along with a poster signed by many of the volunteers. Mr. Coleman spoke of how much Jonathon enjoyed the annual event and how much he appreciated the volunteers who provided so much enjoyment to so many children.
Then came the awards presentations: each child and his captain receive plaques which hold a picture of the participating child with the boat captain and boat; a trophy; a goody bag; and this year an Easter Basket. Included is much joshing from Jim Owens who always seems to enjoy this part of the day as much as the kids do.
The children's delighted expressions (and the boat captains' as well) make the day worthwhile for the volunteers and family members. We know most of them will be back next year. Mark your calendar: April 19!
Released: May 09, 2013