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Wheelin’ event opens doors

Joe Smith sits in the spring sun, fishing rod clasped firmly in hand, ever alert for the slightest sign of a bite.

He cannot hide the smile on his face or the sheer joy as he reels in the flopping crappie and plops it down on the planks of the boardwalk.

It is no exaggeration to say that Joe wouldn’t have had this opportunity a decade ago. Navigating a wheelchair along rough lake or pond embankments is a sure ticket for disaster.

But that changed about eight years ago when the Wayne National Forest built the boardwalk that spans the refilled Lake Vesuvius, opening the doors to many men and women who thought they would likely never fish on the banks of Vesuvius again.

Joe Smith isn’t a real person but he is an amalgamation of the countless individuals who come to the annual Wheelin’ Sportsmen Fishing Day, set for its seventh year from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, April 15.

This has been a tremendous asset to our community and really can make a difference in the life of someone who maybe wouldn’t be able to get out into the great outdoors.

We applaud all those who have partnered in recent years to make this dream come true for these would-be anglers.

This year’s sponsors include the South Hills Longbeards Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Wayne National Forest, Ohio University Southern Nature Center, Lawrence County Bass Club, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, and City National Bank.

The event has garnered many local and national honors over the years but none carry the weight of the smiles on the faces of all the Joe Smiths who come out to play.