Fishing’s magical powers
Jay Yelas has seen the wonders fishing can produce.
He is the head of C.A.S.T.for Kids
, a non-profit organization that puts on fishing events for special-needs children. And he has witnessed some touching moments.
“One of my favorite heart-warming stories involved a little girls who was nonverbal before our event,” Yelas said. “A volunteer took her fishing in a bass boat and they had a great day.
"When they got back to the dock, the mother came running up to me, all excited. She was just elated.
"She told me her daughter had talked for the first time during that fishing trip.”
The girl, who was 6 at the time, has come back in subsequent years and Yelas is amazed at her progress.
“A lot of these kids are a little timid when they show up,” he said. “For many of them, it’s their first time fishing and they’re not quite sure they can do it.
"But when they start catching fish and having fun, they’re all smiles. They’re full of confidence.”
And that carries beyond fishing, Yelas said.
“Imagine going through life when you are always an outsider; when you don’t fit it,” he said. “We put a little sunshine in their lives.
"We throw a big party and they’re the stars of the show. Their parents tell us how important these events are for building self-confidence.
"The kids think, ‘If I can do this, what else can I do?’ ”
C.A.S.T. for Kids, based in Salem, Ore., puts on fishing events in 33 states. Yelas was invited to be a board member in 2005, and he became the executive director in 2015 after the founder retired.