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Fishing Fun: Wheelin’ Sportsmen event offers outdoor opportunity

Bethel Caudill fishes from a walkway overlooking Lake Vesuvius. In his younger years the former sailor loved to fish.

Now after diabetes took him off his feet and into a wheelchair, he doesn’t get out as much as he used to. Especially not to fish.

“This is the first time I’ve been out in over two years,” Caudill, a nursing home patient, said. “Last year I didn’t get to come.”

Caudill and others like him are the very reason for Wheelin’ Sportsmen Fishing Day, which was held at the lake Thursday morning.

Each year the event, which is put on by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Forest Service, allows those with physical and mental disabilities the opportunity to fish with the help of a host of volunteers.

“The goal is to offer the opportunity to people that might not have it,” said Buddy Fry, a member of the national board of directors for the NWTF. “This may be the only time in the whole year that they get out to do so.”

About 190 people pre-registered for the event, not including those who did not sign up before hand.

“(The number of attendees) may be a little high because of the weather,” Fry said. “It’s an absolutely perfect day. If it were rainy we’d maybe have half this many.”

This is the first year that year that a group from Active Day, an adult medical day care in Ashland, came for the event. The day care brought eight people with various mental and physical disabilities.

“They really don’t get to have days like this (often),” Billie Dalton, transportation coordinator for the day care, said. “They’re having a ball.”

Several sponsors helped with the event and a handicapped accessible boardwalk surrounding a section of the lake made the event possible, said Tim Slone a district ranger with Wayne National Forest.

“(That boardwalk) was a major logistical need,” Slone said. “You just don’t see those facilities everywhere.

“I appreciate the National Wild Turkey Federation and City National (Bank) and all our partners,” he said. “(The event) would be too much for any one organization to put together.”

Besides the sponsors, several schools sent volunteers to help with food and other needs at the event.

Students from Symmes Valley High School’s FFA helped distribute food and carry supplies for nursing home patients. The group came last year for the first time.

Beth Roberts, faculty adviser for the club, said the students were apprehensive at first.

“But once we got here they really enjoyed it,” Roberts said. “I think the kids gain a lot out of it.”