Originally Posted Online: Sept. 01, 2013, 6:56 pm
Last Updated: Sept. 01, 2013, 10:57 pm
Group hopes to give special-needs kids chance to be anglers
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By John Marx, email@example.com
Fishing Has No Boundaries offers the opportunity for those with disabilities to experience a day on the water, enjoying the world of fishing.
Michelle Sarb smiles warmly and extends her hands to her son, Owen.
Just shy of 2, Owen's afternoon nap has been interrupted by this newspaper man and, as all parents have experienced, Owen was not pleased.
A handsome lad with a 20,000-watt smile, Owen has a rare genetic metabolic condition, one that affects less than 500 worldwide.
But in moments -- in the comfort of his mother's arms -- all was well in Owen's world.
To Owen and Michelle Sarb's left sits Allie McGraw, the local chapter (Eastern Iowa) lead for Fishing Has No Boundaries. McGraw has endless energy and full-speed enthusiasm. She has family members with special needs and has dedicated herself to making sure there's a local FHNB chapter.
FHNB is a nonprofit whose goal is to open up the great outdoors for people with disabilities through the world of fishing. It has 27 chapters in 13 states, enabling thousands of people with disabilities to participate in this spirit-lifting, morale-boosting recreational activity.
Now, after months of work, McGraw and Michelle Sarb have the local FHNB ball gathering steam, and are looking for others interested in volunteering, offering boats, boat captains and others willing to share the benefits of angling. The goal is to offer 30 special-needs people ages 12 and older a chance to drop a line in the water by June 2014.
"We believe through education, training and the use of adaptive angling equipment, everyone is able to share in this dream,'' said McGraw. The local chapter covers Iowa and Illinois, but is based out of Clinton County, Iowa, because Rock Creek Marina just outside Clinton, is handicapped accessible, she said.
"It's a jumping-off spot, Rock Creek; we'd love to find spots in the Quad-Cities to expand the chapter," McGraw said.
Moline's Ben Layer is president of Special Persons Encounter Christ, a Sunday School curriculum tailored to the needs of children and young adults with mental or physical disabilities. He said FHNB is a wonderful and positive step to serve those with special needs.
Layer and his brother, Andrew, also have been providing outdoor adventures for area youth for years.
"I wanted to be involved with Fishing Has No Boundaries, because it meshes two worlds I am very passionate about, providing fun and meaningful opportunities for a population of extraordinary individuals with special needs through nature and outdoor adventures,'' said Layer, who for years, with Andrew, has been providing local outdoor adventures for young people "I also know the outdoor community locally will step forward and make this go.''
The FHNB project has received corporate support from Rock Valley Physical Therapy, where Michelle Sarb is a physical therapist. She heads the company' s philanthropic arm.
"It's a natural for us,'' Sarb said of Rock Valley and FHNB. She said gofundme.com/fhnb-easterniowa) has been created for donations. A successful garage sale was held, and a trivia night and soup dinner fundraisers are planned for the winter and spring.
"It's just a great cause," she said. "Allie has worked so hard, and because of her, the project has hit the ground running. On a personal note, it might someday be something for Owen to be part of. For now, though, this kind of thing belongs in our community.''
For more information, email the Eastern Iowa chapter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 563-210-4296.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or email@example.com.