Heidi Overman, Chairperson of Fishing Has No Boundaries® Inc. (FHNB) - Hayward Chapter, Hayward, WI, became involved with the organization while volunteering in her Girl Scout troop at their first event in 1988. Along with her sisters, she became a lifelong volunteer, now serving as the volunteer chairperson for this organization whose goal is to open up the great outdoors for people with disabilities through the world of fishing.
As Overman expresses, “This organization is special, whether the fishing or weather is good or bad, everyone that attends has a great time… No pun intended, but once you experience the happiness of the attendees, you’re hooked!”
The Annual Event in Hayward is held the third weekend of May at the Lake Chippewa Campground, just outside of Hayward. A section of the campground is generously donated for FHNB to use every year. This highly anticipated and fun-filled event draws attendees from throughout the Midwest and even as far as Florida. The group offers the pontoons, guides and adaptive equipment for those that need more than just a standard rod and reel.
Volunteer Based Planning
With a staff of only one full-time employee, FHNB is run by a board of directors comprised of seven elected positions and volunteers. Overman notes, “I absolutely love everything about this organization (with the exception of leeches and fish cleaning [joking]), but seriously, I love to see a person’s eyes light up when they sit down on that pontoon and know they are going to have an adventure.” The group meets monthly to plan the annual event, promote the organization and plan the fundraising.
Planning for the annual event starts in January and the first step includes distributing the registration forms to participants and volunteers, as well as requests for boat donations. The organization provides the bait, fuel, a light breakfast and dinner for the two-day event and depends upon the generosity of their vendors and sponsors to keep the event running. With a tight budget of just over $55k, businesses donate money to help participants in need (including assistance with the $60 registration fee), as well as helping with event related costs such as insurance, fuel, etc.
Participants are in charge of their own lodging and the group offers suggested resorts and places to stay nearby, though many opt to camp near the event site.
Crunch time starts a week prior to the event when the volunteers transport as many as 40 pontoons and 15 boats to the site and begin set up on the grounds.
When the weekend arrives, the focus turns to the participants and making the weekend all about fun and fishing. After the opening ceremonies and morning safety meeting, the volunteers help get everyone out on the water and participants are given the opportunity to fish all day. Concession stands are set up and available for lunch during the day.
As the boats return in the afternoon, the guides help the participants get their fish measured and cleaned. Then it’s off to the first evening’s event which includes a fish fry where volunteers serve the participants. Everyone enjoys ceremonies that include awards like guide of the year, volunteer of the year and a report of the top fish. There is also time spent sharing the fishing stories from the day and the night is topped off with a local DJ that provides music and entertainment for those who are ready to celebrate.
Saturday’s schedule runs similar to Friday, ending with a group cook-out, a ceremony where participants are awarded for the top fish in the different categories and a final night of entertainment and camaraderie.
At the end of the day, the true reward comes through the joy experienced by the attendees. Overman sums it up best, “To see the smile on someone’s face carrying around the first fish they have ever caught, sometimes the smile is bigger than that fish. I believe the major thing that the attendees take away from our event is that there are no boundaries. It is just a matter of finding a new way to do something or asking for a little help.”
For more information about Fishing Has No Boundaries®, Inc. (the National Organization) visit www.fhnbinc.org. To learn more about the Hayward chapter, visit www.haywardfhnb.org.