Wishes for Fishes on Oneida Lake

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On June 27, 2024, sixteen families, comprising 26 children and their parents, checked into a hotel in Brewerton, NY. At half past five, everyone gathered in the parking lot with big smiles and excitement, eagerly watching as police vehicles and fire trucks arrived. After taking a group photo, the families entered their cars and formed a line. They followed the fire truck with flashing lights and sirens while the police held up traffic. Then, behind the last family’s car was another fire truck, the captain’s vehicle, an ambulance, and a police SUV.

Upon arrival at the fire station, the families were seated at a table with their respective captains, ready to enjoy a smorgasbord dinner. Brimming with excitement, the children bombarded their captains with many questions, which they were happy to answer. The room was alive with the children’s energy, their lively conversations and laughter filling the air, creating a warm and memorable atmosphere.

The following morning, the families eagerly anticipated their much-awaited fishing trip. The Brewerton Fire Department and Cicero Police Department escorted them to Oneida Shores Park. Unfortunately, the parking lot was full, so they had to park farther from the boat launch. The fire chief gestured for the families to board the fire trucks for a ride to the dock. The kids were thrilled; some had never been inside a fire truck. Riding in one was a dream come true and enhanced the entire experience.

As the families arrived at the dock, they were greeted by their captains, fitted for their life jackets, had another group picture taken, and boarded their boats. Grace Meyers sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. The seventeen boats then sped off from the dock to their captain’s favorite fishing spots. The children’s faces lit up with joy as they experienced the thrill of the boat ride, a moment that will surely be etched in their hearts. Meanwhile, the volunteers back at shore also shared in the excitement and then began preparing a delicious lunch for their return.

Seven-year-old Carter expressed his desire to catch a sunfish for his sister, Anna, who had recently passed away from cancer. Anna must have been smiling down from heaven as she watched her younger brother reel in a sunfish, marking his first catch. The joy everyone on the boat shared at that moment must have been incredible and created a deep emotional connection.

Sixteen-year-old AJ and his mom and grandpa also participated in the event. He brought cheer to everyone he interacted with, and he was especially thrilled about getting a police escort and sitting in the front seat with the officer. His mother emphasized that they cherished the quality time spent on the water, focusing on fishing and interacting with wonderful people.

Fourteen-year-old Evan was ecstatic when his captain pulled a 22-inch sheepshead onto the boat in the net. His eyes widened, and his smile lit up the whole lake. Evan put his arm around his captain’s neck and raised his thumb joyfully as the captain held up the fish. His parents, captain, and first mate were overjoyed to share his incredible catch.

Four-year-old Guinevere enjoyed catching her little fish and watching her brother catch two fish. Her brother, Colt, considered catching a walleye as the trip’s highlight. Their mom added, “We all thoroughly enjoyed the company of our captain, and the boys especially learned so much from him that they will always remember!”

Kendra, her dad, and their captain returned to shore beaming, having had a successful fishing trip and catching seven fish. They held up all the fish to get their pictures taken. Kendra’s older brother Alex, who fished with their mom and another captain, also had a great catch and showed their prize fish from their boat. Their mom shared that the best part of the day for her family was the boat ride, catching fish, and appreciating nature.

Aiden and Arthur’s mother said, “The best part of the trip was enjoying the many people we met and having lots of laughs. The peaceful boat ride and catching some fish were just added bonuses!”

Once the boats returned, the families were car-pooled back to where they had parked their vehicles earlier that day. They enjoyed a tasty lunch, received fishing rods and gifts, and then enjoyed an educational presentation by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

We thank Keith Houser and David Johns for their outstanding work coordinating this event. We are also grateful for the dedication and hard work of the captains, first mates, and volunteers, Captain Mark Sposato and Chief Steve Rotunno, whose unwavering efforts ensured its tremendous success.

Additionally, we are grateful to the Villa Barone Manor, Brewerton Fire Department, Cicero Police Department, Lakeside Outfitters, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Meyers’s RV & Marine, Reworld, Soco Baits, Toss & Fire Wood-Fired Pizza, McDonald’s, Subway, Greater Oneida Lake Chamber of Commerce, and USSA’s New York Chapter for their donations and financial support.

Congratulations to all the families, captains, and first mates on their excellent catches and unforgettable memories. 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].