On August 14, 2023, with an honorary escort by the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, thirty-three families gathered with Captains at the Southport Fire Department. A delicious meal with a wide selection of food, a fascinating motorcycle, and an acrobatic stunt show concluded a fantastic evening. The families stayed overnight at the Baptist Assembly, located at the historic Fort Caswell, and then the Sheriff’s Office escorted the families again to the landing site hosted by Morningstar Marinas of Southport, which was very exciting for the kids.
Jwantana Gardner performed the national anthem and said a beautiful morning prayer for the Captains and their families. Afterward, thirty-two boats set sail amidst the ocean waves, carrying eager anglers filled with anticipation. Despite the high temperature, the morning cloudy overcast, and breezy weather provided a comfortable environment.
Ten-year-old Caleb, his parents, and Captains Keith and Christa ventured up Dutchman’s Creek and found themselves in the backwaters of some good fishing area. They chose to set up on a grassy bank, and on their second cast, they successfully hooked a fish. Caleb shared that he initially thought the fish was big because it fought hard. He added that the fish took the line on him. Seeing the fish emerge from the water, he exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, this is huge! This has to be a redfish.” Along with the redfish, they caught flounder, croakers, and various other fish. Captain Keith shared that the most impactful moment for him was when Caleb’s face lit up with joy upon seeing the redfish he had hoped to catch.
Noah, also ten, recounted that he and his mother, aunt, and captains went to their secret hiding spot to fish. Unfortunately, they didn’t catch any, so they tried another location and caught a flounder, silverfish, and several croakers, which made him very happy. He reached into the bucket beside his wheelchair, grinning from ear to ear, and said joyfully, “Be prepared to see all the colorful fish.” He added that many beautiful ones were in the pail before pulling out his favorite fish. He proceeded to show how fish move through the water by wiggling the tail of the fish he was holding. Then he held up his arms and exclaimed, “I caught a shark that was this big! It had brown teeth, and I believe it was a baby. I had to return it to the water because “No sharks allowed!” He ended up catching a total of seven fish. When asked about his favorite part of the trip, he said catching many fish.
Parris shared her excitement about her son Simeon’s successful fishing trip. Despite being in a wheelchair, Simeon, with assistance from Captain Jim, caught five croakers, a pufferfish, and a sand shark. She expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to go on the trip and for the joy it brought her family. She hoped everyone involved in making the trip possible knew how much it meant to them.
Betsy exclaimed that their fishing trip was unexpectedly enjoyable. She recounted how Mason caught 11 fish, and Ella caught 12 fish on the boat, while she caught a tiny hammerhead shark that brought her much joy. Betsy found it heartwarming to see the different families gather together that morning, each with their unique preparations for the excursion. She said, “It was a beautiful moment to know that everyone could escape their daily struggles for a day and have a good time.” Betsy praised their Captain Inman for his enthusiasm in teaching them how to fish and giving them a tour.
Noah and his dad had an unforgettable deep-sea fishing trip with Captain David. Chris said, “He was accommodating, friendly, and knowledgeable, which made our trip even more enjoyable. He cared for Noah’s needs while providing us with a fantastic fishing experience.” They caught stingrays, sharks, croakers, and bluefish. The Captain and Chris helped hook the fish while Noah reeled them in. Overall, it was an incredible experience.
Captain David added, “What I see here is a community, this is my first time participating in the event and my family’s first time participating. We found community in this event right to begin with, from the Captain’s meeting until today, whenever we were out fishing, the community of all of this where everybody feels like they are part of something bigger than they are. I think they realize that, and I realize it immediately.”
We want to thank the Captains who went above and beyond to create a fantastic fishing experience and the Lord who blessed us with cloudy, overcast, and needed wind. We want to express our gratitude to the numerous individuals, businesses, and organizations who worked tirelessly to make this event successful. Their time, effort, and financial assistance made it possible to create such a memorable experience for everyone involved. We thank Morningstar Marina of Southport, Morehead City Open, Triad Saltwater Anglers (TSA), North Carolina Marine Fisheries, DB Sole Freerunning, Seatow, and Baptist Assembly, for their generous contributions. We would also like to acknowledge the Southport Fire Department, Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Oak Island Police Department, North Carolina Wildlife Resources, 3Cheers Party Rental, and New Hanover County Marine Patrol for their valuable support. Furthermore, our appreciation goes out to Bella Cucina, Jersey Mikes, and the Southport Fire Department for their exceptional job at cooking and serving lunch.
A special thank you to Eric King and our dedicated team of volunteers for their hard work and dedication in making this event extraordinary for the families.
It was indeed a pleasure to have the Miracle League and Special Olympics families participate in the event. It warms the heart to witness different charities collaborate to improve the lives of these exceptional families we are privileged to serve. God bless!
If you want to get involved or know of a deserving family who would benefit from this event, don’t hesitate to United Special Sportsman Alliance at [email protected] or (800) 518-8019.