Embarking on Wishes and Reeling in Fishes at Lake Wateree

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The fifth annual South Carolina Fishing Trip on Lake Wateree, organized by the United Special Sportsman Alliance (USSA), occurred on May 10th and 11th. Forty-two aspiring anglers participated, with many experiencing fishing for the first time.

While the families were checking into the hotel, a power outage occurred on that side of town. Despite their eagerness to settle into their rooms, their excitement for the fishing trip outweighed the inconvenience of being unable to check-in.

At 5:30 pm, the families were escorted from the hotel to the Richburg Fire Department. Even without electricity, the jubilant atmosphere created its own ‘special’ light. The tables displayed the names of the families, their captains, and a “Holy Bible for Kids” for each child. After Justin Whiteside summarized the schedule for the following day, Josh Freeman said a beautiful prayer, and everyone enjoyed a meet-and-greet pizza party.

The next day, the families left their hotel at 6:00 am for a thirty-minute drive to Lake Wateree Baptist Church in Ridgeway. They were greeted by their captains and volunteers eagerly waiting for them to arrive. The weather was perfect, with clear blue skies and sunlight glistening on the lake. After a morning prayer by Thomas Richardson, the families excitedly boarded the boats with their captains and set off to their fishermen’s favorite fishing spots. The atmosphere was filled with shared joy and excitement, making it difficult to discern who was more thrilled, the children or the fishermen.

Abigail, seven years old, exclaimed, “I caught a big fish! My fish got on the hook, and I reeled it in all by myself. My favorite part was catching my biggest fish.” Her brother Cameron, 11, said, “The first fish I caught weighed 24 lbs., the second fish was 2 lbs., the next was 4 lbs., and my last one was 11 lbs.” When asked about the best part of his fishing trip, he said, “Catching the first fish!”

Nicole expressed, “The best part of the trip was seeing our son genuinely happy and fully engaged in an activity. Before the accident, Braelin was very active, always running around and playing outside. Since becoming paralyzed, he no longer wants to be outdoors. However, he has always loved fishing, and it’s the only activity he can still enjoy from before the accident. It’s something that he cherishes. It brings him comfort, familiarity, and peace.”

Sharon, ClemtA’very’s grandma, shared, “When my daughter asked me to bring my grandson, I didn’t think I could because I’m afraid of the water. At 64 years old, I had never been on the water. But after seeing my husband and grandson bonding, catching eight fish, and being on the boat, I have conquered my fear of water. I enjoyed every minute of it, and they should have this fishing event three times a year.” ClemtA’very added, “I have only been fishing a few times but never caught a fish. It was a lot of fun, and the best part was being able to drive the Captain’s boat.”

Glenna said, “The most impactful thing for her son Cameron was building self-confidence. He has been fishing before but has never reeled in a fish. He was too nervous on this trip to reel in the first fish and asked me to do it. So I did. He stood up more confidently on the second catch but nervously shook to reel in his first fish. Captain Shane was so encouraging and walked Cameron through everything he needed to do. It took a bit, but Cameron finally reeled that first fish in!! The third fish, Cameron, got up without hesitation and excitedly reeled that fish in!!!” And Cameron added, “We caught four fish. I reeled in two of them by myself. I would love to go fishing again!” When asked about his favorite part, he replied, “Everything.”

Monty, who is eight years old, said, “The very first catfish I reeled in was about this big,” spreading his hands apart. “It was a big one!” He explained that he only needed a little help, “like getting the hook out and stuff like that.” “I got six fish, and the best part was catching the fish!”

Thomas said, “I went fishing with my Captain and my parents; it was a lot of fun. I got to drive the boat and caught four fish, two of the fish at the same time. All of the fish were big except for one tiny fish. The best part was driving the boat for the first time and catching my first catfish.” His mother added, “We had the best time ever, so needed!”

Flathead Luke, the youngest fisherman at ten years old, said, “I have been fishing with my dad, who is the Captain, for four years. I help bait and net the fish for Thomas. The best part was watching Thomas reel in the fish.” When asked if he would take over his dad’s job as the Captain one day, he smiled and nodded yes!

Miguel, the father of 9-year-old Noel, said, “We were out there for a while, and then we found the right spot and caught seven catfish. Noel caught the first fish. When Miguel asked Noel how big the fish was, he reached out his arms to show the size and said, ‘Big!’ Then Gabriel caught the second one, followed by Angel. The brothers said the best part of the experience was the fishing and were looking forward to going again.

Tristan said, “I went catfishing for the first time today with my sister, Jyn. I caught six fish, and we took pictures with them. The best part was fishing for the fish and setting them free! We even saw a bald eagle catching a fish by itself.”

Braylon said, “I caught around 15 fish,” demonstrating their various sizes with his hands. My favorite part was catching the fish. It was my first catfishing, and I want to do it again. When asked how his dad did fishing, he tilted his head back and forth and, with a big smile, said, “Okay.” He added, “He caught two fish.” time catfishing, and I want to do it again.” When asked how his dad did fishing, he tilted his head back and forth and, with a big smile, said, “Okay.” He added, “He caught two fish.”

Stuart, ClemtA’very grandpa shared, “I’ve never been freshwater fishing with a rod and reel before; my last fishing trip was over thirty years ago. The best part for me was witnessing the joy on the kids’ faces – the child in the wheelchair was so happy, and the little girl with the turquoise eyes was all smiles. The kids really enjoyed it, and I’m thrilled about what happened today. I’m going to tell a lot of people about this great experience.”

After an exhilarating five-hour fishing expedition, the families and captains returned to shore, eagerly anticipating a delicious lunch. The radiant smiles on everyone’s faces were a clear testament to the trip’s incredibly positive impact on every person.

We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Justin Whiteside, USSA South Carolina Representative, the Captains, and the volunteer staff. Their unwavering dedication and hard work were instrumental in ensuring the success of this event. We are also deeply thankful to the Richburg Fire Department for their support. We thank the generous donors and sponsors whose ongoing financial support allows us to host this annual fishing event.

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to all the families for their abundant catches and the beautiful memories made with their Captains. This gathering indeed demonstrated the strength of the community and the joy found in selfless giving. God bless!

If you are interested in getting involved or know of a deserving child or veteran, don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].