Shelby County students shine at Exceptional Anglers event

Published 8:51 am Monday, May 23, 2022

By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Oak Mountain State Park held the annual Exceptional Anglers event “Gone Fishin’, Not Just Wishin’” May 11-13. There, special needs students from Shelby and Jefferson County schools smiled and laughed as they soaked up the sunshine and cast fishing lines into the lake.

The Gone Fishin’ event has been held several years in a row now, and it aims to teach basic fishing skills to students with special needs. Students present were from schools including Alabaster and Pelham City Schools.

Jessica Brown, a teacher at Pelham Park Middle School, said her students look forward to the event every year.

“Here at Pelham City Schools, we absolutely love the Gone Fishin’ event,” she said. “We appreciate the collaboration with other school systems and all of the volunteers that devote their time to help with this event.”

During Gone Fishin’, students are given the opportunity to fish, participate in art projects, perform with local musicians, listen to storytellers and learn aspects of water safety. Representatives of the events sponsors such as Spire Energy, Alabama Power and ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division were present to cheer the students on and encourage them to learn about nature.

Oak Mountain Park Naturalist Lauren Massey said the event is incredibly impactful for local youth with different abilities and accessibility needs.

“This event gives these children a chance to do something that the average person may take for granted: fishing,” Massey said. “With the help of many partners in the area such as Southern Company, Spire, local volunteers, ALDCNR Wildlife and Fresh Water Fisheries division, and more alongside Alabama State Parks, we were able to make dreams come true for many kids and learn to work with others. This annual event is one of my personal favorites, and I look forward to many more in the future.”

Brown agreed with Massey that programs like Gone Fishin’ provide a special outlet for the community’s youth.

“Programs like this provide our children with opportunities to participate in activities that they may not be able to take part in otherwise,” Brown said. “We love the community support for this event and hope it will grow and be available for our students to enjoy for years to come.”