The fish hid well on Wednesday morning, but the good times were easy to catch
There are almost 150 boys and girls on the waiting list for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Pinellas County. A surprising number of them share a specific activity they would like to do with their prospective mentors: fishing.
These kids on the waiting list will get their Big Brothers and Big Sisters soon, hopefully, but Mike Alstott didn't see why they had to wait to fulfill that particular wish.
On Wednesday, Alstott, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback invited 30 children on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters waiting list to the Friendship Trail Bridge, where he had arranged a fully-equipped day of fishing.
Rain and storm clouds affected the fishing conditions on Wednesday morning but weren't about to deter this group of fishermen. They met on the Pinellas County side of the bridge early in the morning, braving any weather conditions for a chance to fish with their Buccaneer benefactor.
Alstott arranged the fishing trip after hearing about how many kids on the waiting list had made that request. He provided each of the kids with a brand new fishing pole and a tackle box complete with the necessary supplies to spend many later days on the fishing pier.
The day's early storms seemed to drive most of the fish deep beneath the surface, and only one fisherman managed to catch something all morning. And that lone catch wasn't your typical fish…it was a sting ray! Of course, that was an exciting moment for Alstott and the kids, all of whom gathered around to inspect the creature closely before it was released back into the water.
Even though the fish were scarce, nobody went home empty-handed. Each child got his or her picture taken with Alstott, and everybody got plenty of autographs. At the end of the trip, Alstott and the group enjoyed lunch together.
Alstott is an avid fisherman, so Wednesday's idea was a natural one. The ultra-popular Buccaneer jumped at the chance to combine two of his favorite activities, fishing and hanging out with some great kids.
"It's about getting the kids to come out here and enjoy themselves so I can interact with them a little bit," said Alstott. "I want to put some smiles on the kids' faces, and overall just have fun and enjoy each other's company."
Eric Barsema, Partnership Manager for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Pinellas County, considered the event a great success and one that the kids will remember for a long time.
"I talked to many of the kids and their parents, and they were so, so excited," said Barsema. "Many of the kids said they didn't sleep all week because they were so excited. Unfortunately, a lot of these kids don't have the opportunity to get fishing poles and tackle, so it was great of Mike Alstott to be able to give that to these kids."
Kids on the waiting list for Big Brothers/Big Sisters can spend anywhere from a few months to a year-and-a-half waiting to be paired up with the mentors who are right for them. Mentors are asked to commit to spending at least one year as their little brother or sister's bigger sibling and volunteers for the program are always needed.
If you are interested in becoming involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Pinellas County, please call 727-518-8860 for more information.