‘We want to celebrate every kid’

C.A.S.T. for Kids at Smith Lake Park

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Boat Captain Clint Johnson and KJ (CAST for Kids Smith Lake Park / Facebook)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The annual C.A.S.T. for Kids event was held Saturday at Smith Lake Park, giving children with special needs the opportunity to have a fun day of fishing on the lake.

“When the children get here, they get to have a shirt, a hat, a fishing pole, a tackle box, a day out with a boat captain. All of this is volunteer,” said organizer Emily Chamblee.

The event is made possible by shore volunteers, boat captains and sponsors. This year there were 82 volunteers, 24 boat captain, three co-captains and 29 kids participating. A total of 212 fish were caught.

C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation Eastern Regional Director Jeff Barnes said the event has been around for 31 years nationally and at Smith Lake Park for four years.

“We do events for children with special needs, take them fishing,” said Barnes. “Some events, like this one, we have volunteer boaters take them out on the lake for a few hours and then bring them in. Some events we do on shore.”

Children are served lunch, and each child participates in an award ceremony where he or she is recognized, regardless of the number of fish caught.

“We want to celebrate every kid and give them their moment to shine. A lot of them, through COVID, have not had camps to go to or activities outside, so this is a great way to get them out, get them mixed up with some good volunteers, teach them how to fish,” said Barnes.

The kids get to take home their fishing poles and tackle boxes in the hopes that they will continue to fish.

Barnes added, “A lot of these families of these kids with special needs, a lot of times it’s a single-parent family. They just don’t have the means or the knowledge to get their kids out fishing, so this is a great thing to come to, and some of the kids have made friends with their captains and they come out every year.”

Upcoming C.A.S.T. for Kids events will be at Lake Guntersville on Oct. 8 and Walker County Lake on Oct. 21. For more information, visit www.castforkids.org.

Keaton fishing with his grandfather Eric Allred. They caught 37 bluegill and two turtles (CAST for Kids Smith Lake Park/ Facebook)

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