Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Special Gear for Disabled Helps Them Enjoy Fishing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Special Gear for Disabled Helps Them Enjoy Fishing

Article excerpt

A chilly wind blows through the trees as dark clouds fill the sky. It feels like rain, but Dave Wiles, 34, of Leavenworth, Kan., doesn't seem bothered. Sitting on the dock with his line cast into Lake of the Ozarks, he's happy.

Wiles is a camper at Camp Wonderland in Rocky Mount, a camp for mentally and physically disabled children and adults. As a result of a head injury, he has no mobility in his left hand and limited mobility in his right hand. The fishing pole, which is attached to his wheelchair, electronically casts itself and allows Wiles to reel it back in with his right hand.

Thanks to this special equipment donated by the Missouri chapter of the American Fisheries Society's (MOAFS) Disabled Angler Committee, Wiles is able to fish.

"These devices give anglers the opportunity to fish on their own," said Matt Peregoy, assistant camp director. "The counselors would have to help a lot more and Dave would not be able to cast at all without it."

Organized in 1988 to promote sport fishing among persons with disabilities, the Disabled Angler Committee provides individuals, camps and rehabilitation centers with disabled-accessible equipment. This usually includes wheelchair-mounted casting units, battery-powered fishing reels, worm clamps, knot tiers, adaptive vests and fish grabbers.

"This gear can be very expensive," says Kyle Reno, chairman of the committee. "A wheelchair-mounted automatic reel and cast unit can cost up to $400, making it difficult for some to purchase the equipment.

"By soliciting donations, the committee is able to give some anglers with disabilities the opportunity to fish, which makes us feel very good."

Karen Roedel, who teaches eighth-grade adapted physical education at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City, knows about making others feel good. She recently received a donation from the committee of electronic rods and shorter rods that make mobility easier for the kids.

"Because my students have physical and mental disabilities, I had to think about activities that they could participate in," she said.

"They can't play sports, but fishing can be a lifetime recreation activity for them," Roedel said.

With the specialized gear, Roedel took her students on a fishing trip to the Cole County Jaycee Park Lake last month."These kids would never have been able to do very much without these special rods," she said. …

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