Gone fishin’ Linda Nolen students participate in tournament

People visiting the Linda Nolen Learning Center last Wednesday were greeted by locked doors and a sign that read &uot;gone fishin’.&uot;

The sign was the only representative left at the Alabaster school as every student, teacher and staff member took off to Oak Mountain State Park for the Exceptional Anglers Fishing Tournament.

&uot;It’s the biggest day of the year for most of these students,&uot; said principal Carol Adams.

The tournament was created nine years ago for public school students who are unable to take part in traditional physical education programs due to health concerns or disabilities.

Volunteers helped the LNLC students catch and reel in fish at the State Park. They even baited hooks with the squirmy night crawlers used for bait.

Adams said school-wide field trips are difficult because of the &uot;challenges of getting a disabled child out in the public.&uot;

However, LNLC, which serves children with special needs from age 5-21, makes the trip annually.

&uot;We look forward to this day all year,&uot; Adams said. &uot;We close the school and the entire staff &045; teachers, secretaries, janitors, all of us &045; come out to ensure a very special day for all of our students.&uot;

Alabama Power is one of the founding sponsors of the event, along with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Jefferson and Shelby County school systems.

Months of planning and the efforts of many different participants are required to pull off the event, organizers said.

Willard Bowers, vice president of Environmental Affairs at Alabama Power, said three things are a must.

&uot;You need fish, you need children and you need volunteers,&uot; Bowers said. &uot;We couldn’t do it without the volunteers.&uot;

Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Service Organization contributed some 200 volunteers to the event with more than 100 volunteers coming from other sponsors including Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Game and Fish Division and State Parks, Alabama BASS Federation, Alagasco, Coca Cola, Desiree &uot;Peanut&uot; Fitts, EBSCO, Jefferson County School System, Kay Gay, Lakeshore Foundation, Martha and Lee Humber, Shelby County School System, Sunrise Rotary Club, Syx Bait and Tackle, Wall Street Deli at Riverchase Galleria, Wal-Mart and Waste Management of Alabama.

To be sure the children had a good chance of hooking a fish, the lake was pre-stocked with some 4,000 pounds of blue channel catfish, 1,000 largemouth bass and 1,000 bluegill.

&uot;This is a great event to give these children a chance to experience something they might not otherwise get to experience,&uot; Bowers said.

&uot;Some of the parents now take their children fishing because they see the enjoyment the children get out of it.&uot;