Dear Joe and Kathy,
I want to thank both of you for adding the Special Angler Division to this year’s Spanish Mackerel Tournament. My family does quite a bit of fishing, but we have never entered in a fishing tournament. Morgan Howard, my oldest daughter, has Down’s Syndrome. So, we decided to enter our first fishing tournament when we heard about your tournament having a Special Angler Division.
We had a pretty good team of anglers on our boat and a decent chance to win a prize in the tournament. Along with Morgan, we also had her two younger sisters, Caroline(16) and Catherine(13) and our friends, Joe, Abby(16), and Issy English(13). Morgan caught our first three fish to give her the first chance at an award, but unfortunately for Morgan, I had chosen to fish at Point Lookout in the morning and all we were catching were bluefish. Later when we moved into the Bay and we were catching Spanish Mackerel, Morgan was happy watching and didn’t end up catching a Spanish Mackerel for the tournament. Caroline, Catherine, Abby, Issy, and Joe’s Spanish Mackerel didn’t win any of the prizes, but we sure did enjoy eating them for dinner that evening. If you are following along you notice I didn’t catch any fish during the tournament. But, I want you to know that my day was priceless. I spent the day with my three daughters and our good friends the English’s fishing on the Chesapeake Bay in your Spanish Mackerel tournament and the memories I have of this day will last a lifetime. If any of the other boats saw a boat with teenage girls dancing to Alabama’s Dixieland Delight, it was ours and while it might not have helped us catch a prize winning Spanish Mackerel, we had fun just the same.
I am sure there is no doubt that the special anglers and their families benefited by your adding this division, so I really hope the Little League and the entire fishing tournament had a great experience as well. I also want to point out the additional revenue just my boat and 7 participants contributed to the local economy because you added the Special Angler Division. We bought our tackle at Smith Point Marina and RW’s Sports in Callao and gas out of Sandy Point Marina. Adding up the registration, fuel, food, beverages, and tackle we contributed about $1,000 to the local economy thanks to your fishing tournament.
We are already talking about entering a Potomac River Rockfish tournament out of Colonial Beach or maybe a local pond or lake fishing tournament and I hope these tournaments will consider adding the Special Angler Division. We would love to participate again next year and hope you will be adding the Special Angler Division in next year’s Spanish Mackerel Tournament.
present 4th place plaque to Tasha Adkins
Chuck Adkins, father of Tasha
Sarah had a great time, and was so excited to win a plaque. She told everyone she waited 23 years to win it. As a matter of fact, it took Diana and me about 10 minutes to convince her to leave the plaque with you all to have it engraved. She had a "death grip" on it, and was not giving it up. Even the next day on the way home, she told me several times that I needed to call you all and find out when it would be ready so we could meet somewhere and pick it up. I think she even suggested a gas station. She was also excited to have 54 facebook likes! "
Many thanks again to the Little League for incorporating the Special Angler award into the tournament and to our Northern Neck community for embracing the Special Anglers. I've received incredible amounts of positive feedback along with wonderful stories from everyone who participated. This was the confirmation we were looking for to see whether or not something like this would really click with the special needs community. None of my fears were realized (with regards to things that might go wrong), just the opposite.
The great stories came not only from those who directly participated with their special needs son or daughter, but also from host families who housed them, and the additional boat crews who entered in support of the Special Anglers. Everybody who participated has told me they want to come back and do it again. I hope you will have us.
I'm so grateful you held to your guns on not allowing an "any fish" accommodation for the special anglers. One of the best stories that came out of this for me was the fact that we could not generate a 5th place winner in the Special Angler category because the two crews with Special Anglers (Liquid Assets II and Latitudes) were honest about whether their anglers caught mackerel vice bluefish. Each of the crews have taken pride in the fact that they held to their guns on the rules and not making an accommodation. This was one of their many triumphs.
This will not be last of my thank you's. There is something still very special about this tournament that just resonates with folks. As you know, if I could write a book on it, I would.
Joe sends . . .