Catching the gift of friendship at Wilderness Lake

DOWNEY - A morning of fishing at Wilderness Park in Downey turned out to be much more than just fishing. You see, for the past 15 years, The Arc participants and the Rotary Club of Downey have gathered at the ol' fishing hole to make certain that about 25 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who receive services from The Arc, have a day of fun and fishing.

It all began when Rotary Club of Downey members met with The Arc a few years back to plan an interactive event. Members wanted to honor people with disabilities by giving each person some deserved attention. Members also wanted to have loads of fun.

Members then came up with a solid idea. What could be better than to spend a morning fishing? Thus, The Annual Downey Rotary/Arc Fishing Derby was born.

The event's theme is "one- on-one". Here's how it works: one Rotarian pairs up with an individual with a developmental disability. With support from the Department of Fish & Game, they venture to the side of the Wilderness Lake with pole in hand, and for the next few hours they enjoy fellowship, conversation and catching some really large catfish.

Rotarian Larry McGrew, of McGrew Construction, has taken charge of this event for many years. With the help of his family and 20 other Rotarians, they go to the lake with a single purpose - to spend a morning with individuals who could use some companionship.

Larry usually teams up with Jesse, who has cerebral palsy, and they spent the morning laughing and making sure they caught the most fish! Barbara Lamberth, of Downey Federal Credit Union, spent the morning with Tina; and while Tina doesn't speak much, they carried on like old girlfriends.

Mike Pohlen walks around the lake to look for folks who needed help. After doing this event for so many years, he takes pride in knowing most people on a first-name basis.

This story repeats itself over 20 times with the one-to-one pairings. Yes, they always catch some fish, but the Rotarians will tell you that they appreciate the opportunity to share the precious gift of time and attention - something we all cherish.

We all went fishing on a Friday morning, caught some fish, but more importantly caught the gift of friendship that can only be developed over a fishing pole and free time.

********** Published: June 07, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 08