By Katy Calloway for The Island Eye News
Fishing is one of the few naturally socially-distanced activities that has gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s also somewhat of a rite of passage for many Lowcountry youngsters.
On Aug. 22, some of the community’s most deserving youth had a chance to get out on the water and cast a line.
The first annual Catch ‘Em for a Cause tournament brought more than 70 anglers from across South Carolina’s coastal waters for a day of fishing to benefit the Carolina Youth Development Center and the Vantage Point Foundation. CYDC is a residential group home for young victims of abuse and neglect, while VPF supports post 9/11 military veterans in their re-introduction to civilian life. Members of both groups have experienced their share of trauma, and neither are letting it dictate their futures.
“It was a successful first-year event,” said VPF Executive Director Mark Holyfield, pointing out that the tournament raised more than $11,000, to be split between the two organizations. “But beyond the fundraising, the opportunity for the veterans to share their love and knowledge of fishing with the kids from CYDC was an immeasurable experience.”
Through the generosity of the IOP Exchange Club, the kids and vets met at the newly built IOP Exchange pier for a day of fishing, kayaking and camaraderie. For many of the youngsters, it was the first time they held a fishing pole. For all of them, it was the first opportunity they had to leave the CYDC campus since the pandemic struck in March.
“As a group home, we have been diligent about keeping our kids safe and minimizing their opportunity for COVID exposure,” said Katy Calloway, vice president of advancement at CYDC.
“The IOP Exchange Club offered an opportunity to have a closed event, outside in a beautiful setting where we could socially distance. The experience for our kids was invaluable.”
The tournament invited anglers of all ages to “fish where you wish” by participating in a saltwater or freshwater division and accessing water wherever it suited them.
Several competitors fished inshore from boats, while some younger anglers fished from the ponds in their neighborhoods.
“We wanted this to be an all-ages tournament and encourage families and kids to enter,” said Keri Scougale, CYDC’s director of development. “It was great because the three winners in the freshwater division were all under 16 years old.”
First place prizes in both divisions included cash awards up to $500, full-size Yeti coolers and rods and reels donated by Shimano and valued at up to $600 each.
“Next year will be even better. Now that we’ve laid the groundwork for an annual event, we hope to have even more participation,” added Scougale.
The date for the 2021 tournament will be announced on Facebook in the coming weeks.
“Veterans want to continue to serve, and partnering with the youth at CYDC is a natural fit for both groups,” said Holyfield, adding that CYDC and VPF plan to continue the partnership through events and volunteer opportunities when people can once again interact without having to be concerned with COVID-19.
Founded in 1790 as the Charleston Orphan House, Carolina Youth Development Center’s mission is to empower and equip our community’s children by providing a safe environment, educational support and career readiness in collaboration with families and community partners. Our vision is that all children have loving and stable families and a nurturing community that empowers them to lead successful lives.
Founded in 2016 by local veterans and families, VPF’s mission is to guide and support veterans and families on a new path toward healing and civilian success. VPF’s goal is to accelerate local veterans’ progression into civilian life by facilitating community, healing and a new purpose in order that they may continue to serve their communities. VPF offers leadership training, mentorship, a statewide network, clinical and employment support, and a myriad of other training to support veterans as they pursue their goals.
For more information or to make a donation, visit the organizations online at CYDC.org and VantagePointFoundation.org. For information on the Catch ‘Em For A Cause tournament, like its Facebook page at Facebook.com/events/2214200578704865.