For parents of kids with physical or mental disabilities, it can be difficult to find appropriate activities. Many typical summer pastimes, such as baseball or swimming, are for some off limits for safety reasons. But thanks to the Egg Harbor Township Recreation Department, fishing isn't on that list.
On Aug. 8, the Egg Harbor Township Recreation Department will hold its 22nd annual Special Tournament of Fishing for township kids with physical or mental disabilities.
Ed Schafer, who runs the tournament with Recreation Director Bob Lincoln, said it's a rare opportunity that's not to be missed.
"It's something they may never do again in their lifetime," Schafer said. "Not every kid gets to go fishing."
The tournament will be held aboard the boat Starfish, which will launch out of Sea Isle City at 1 p.m. and return at 5 p.m., at which time awards will be presented. Participants must live in Egg Harbor Township to register and must be accompanied by an adult escort.
The tournament was started in 1991 by Schafer and Lincoln as a way to give Egg Harbor Township's special needs kids a safe, engaging activity. The event was immediately popular, and in its early years, spots quickly filled.
Registration for the event has dwindled in recent years, largely because many parents are unaware of the program, and because of privacy reasons, the Recreation Department is unable to contact them directly, Lincoln said.
While the idea of deep sea fishing may make parents of special needs kids nervous, Lincoln said there's no reason to fret, as the Recreation Department has enlisted many volunteers to keep the kids safe, some of them first-responders.
"We have plenty of help there on board," Lincoln said. "We have enough help to handle any situation. The crew of the Starfish are great."
While the tournament is open only to special needs kids in the township, the Recreation Department also has a Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs series of trips open to kids 7 years and older. The next trip will be Aug. 1.
The Recreation Department's fishing trips promise to be a fun time, both for the kids who take part and those who volunteer. Lincoln, for one, is looking forward to again sharing the fun of fishing with the group.
"When a kid for the first time, catches a fish, the look on his face," Lincoln said. "You can't describe that."
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
What: 22nd annual Special Tournament of Fishing
When: 1-5 p.m., Aug. 8
Where: Starfish out of Sea Isle City.
How much: Free
More info: Call 609-272-8120.