Under blue skies and with a nice breeze keeping everyone cool, the big football players and young elementary school kids spent 90 minutes casting their lines into the small lake adjacent to the International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the kids or the players, especially since Bess, Dansby, Soliai and the others hope to perform well out on the open water one week from Saturday in the big tournament.
“This serves as a nice little warm-up for the Fins Weekend, but that’s on whole different level,” said Bess, who reeled in the largest fish of the day, a bass, from the bigger lake on the other side of the walkway. “The main thing about today is just seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and just the amount of joy that we bring to them just by hanging out with them. They also get to see a different side of us and see that we’re regular guys and we fish with them and have a good time.”
For many of the kids, this was their first time holding a fishing rod so they were going to be walking away with special memories no matter what. Throw in the added bonus of hanging out with real professional football players from their favorite team and they were thrilled.
“A lot of these kids come from single family homes, whether it be single moms or single dads and they’re working one or two jobs,” said Miguel Bermeo, health and physical education coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County. “These kids don’t even have the opportunity to just fish, and it doesn’t have to be with athletes, it’s just the whole idea of taking time out and fishing. They have been excited about this chance for so long and it brings joy to me to see that because I didn’t have this opportunity when I was a kid, so these kids will never forget this event. It’s a great thing the Miami Dolphins are doing.”
Mike Myatt, the IGFA’s Chief Operating Officer, has been here for 12 years and has been directly involved with the clinic since its inception. He marvels at the interaction between the kids and the players and finds the experience priceless for those kids.
“You forget the players are actually human sometimes when they’re out there doing superhuman stuff on the field,” Myatt said. “They’re all out there smiling bigger than the kids. It’s just a fun event being outside with the sun shining on you catching some fish and helping some kids learn how to fish. There’s nothing better than that and the Miami Dolphins Foundation does a great job with the entire Fins Weekend. It’s appreciated by the community.”
This was Dansby’s first time participating in the clinic and he considers himself a well-rounded fishing tournament, though he knew he wouldn’t be catching any tarpon or tuna on this day.
Another first-timer was Westerman, but he has fishing in his blood and was more than willing to share his knowledge with the kids.
“My family is from Barbados and my grandfather was a fisherman,” Westerman said. “So I needed to see if I have any of the genes and of any of the skills trickled down, but it’s all about the kids today.”
Publix once again had a big presence and supplied the food for the kids’ lunch inside the Fishing Hall of Fame. Bill Fauerbach, Vice President of Retail Operations for Publix Supermarkets, enjoyed watching the fishing expedition.
“It’s a great event and it’s amazing how there’s so many new faces on the Dolphins this year but so many of the original ones are still here,” he said. “We’ve been involved since the inception and it’s a great event. We look forward to the whole Fins Weekend, with this event kicking everything off. To see a kid catch a fish is just great. It’s what it’s all about and they really get into it.”