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14 May

Got-Em-On Fishing Club’s Labor Of Love

Kure Beach, North Carolina is just south of Carolina Beach. It is known to be a relaxing and peaceful place to enjoy a vacation. It’s just a few miles from the historic Fort Fisher, remembered in history for the important role in Civil War history for being able to hold off Union attacks on both the ocean side and the Cape Fear river. However, on Friday, May 11th Kure Beach and its fishing pier played host to another important event. It was again the home of the Cape Fear Disabled Fishing Tournament. This was the 20th year of this popular and touching event. For months the countless volunteers of the “Got-Em-On Fishing Club” and their sponsors came together to bring smiles to the faces of nearly 400 participants in the Cape Fear Disabled Citizens Fishing Tournament.

For those that have never experienced the wonder of this event, it’s breathtaking from the first sight to the last glimpse. When you arrive at the Kure Beach Pier you’re immediately awestruck by the sea of blue shirts that are worn by the participants of every age, color and fishing skill. Fresh doughnuts, from what many consider world famous, Britt’s Doughnuts, meet the competitors and their escorts as they enter the pier. The Got-Em-On Fishing Club can be seen speckled all through the crowd in their bright red shirts. The volunteers stand at the ramp leading up to the pier with what seems like a forest of fishing rods and reels, all right and ready for the day’s fishing. As you navigate through the crowd of fishing competitors you start to notice the laughter and smiles from all participants. They line the rails of the pier waiting on their rod to bend with the winning fish. Many stand in groups chatting and rekindling friendships from last year. Not only enjoying a day of fishing, but also a day with their many friends. At times it seems that a biting fish was a distraction from their conversations and laughter while the many caregivers patiently stood close by also enjoying the days events.

At the fish cleaning tables, clusters of red-shirted volunteers labor in the hot sun of the morning trying to stay ahead of the bait needs of the anglers by cutting shrimp into to small pieces and placing them into little paper cups. From time to time they look up to see the fun being had around and then quickly go back to cutting bait. When talking to many of these dedicated workers, one quickly learns that this was all a labor of love. It was in many cases their favorite happening of the entire year. Most were even part of the preparation process that began months ago. Some volunteers I spoke with were first timers and others were veterans for as many as 10 years.

As I leave this year’s tournament, I see the massive stack of rods and reels being de-rigged by another large group of volunteers. I watched many of the day’s competitors make their way to the waiting vans, still laughing and chatting as if the day was just beginning. The volunteers were moving a bit slower than they had at the beginning of the day, but they too sported big smiles.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention who the winner was. It’s not because I wanted to overlook their accomplishments or skills. It’s because I believe 

that there were over 400 winners that day on that old pier in Kure Beach. Actually more if you count the many Got-Em-On Fishing Club volunteers. They were again winners because they had fun with friends. They came looking for a good time and they found it. It really wasn’t about winning or losing or how many or big the fish were. It was about making memories. The memories were just as wonderful for the volunteers as they were for the 400 participants. They were tired and sunburned and knew they did something (again) worthwhile for this special group of people.As I look back each year at this event. It always reminds me of the good in people. The volunteers display the kind of people we should be with their tireless work and love for those they do it for. The participants prove that disabilities are no reason to not enjoy life to its fullest. Again displaying the way we should all approach life. They’re all winners and they’re all committed to making lives better. It’s not often you have the privilege of seeing over 400 winners in one place. I can’t wait till next year to see it again and get another dose of greatness in action.

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