In less than a week, two programs make catfish memories for kids.
United Special Sportsman Alliance, Inc. (USSA) is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit wish-granting charity. The organization utilizes volunteers to take critically ill and disabled children and disabled veterans on outdoor adventures. They match up well with the catfish community because of their willingness to share.
USSA recently held one of their Child Wish programs in Tennessee near Jasper but there was one family that could not make it to the July 9-10, 2021 gathering. The modus operandi of the Child Wish program is to pair disabled and critically ill youth and captains for some fishing and fun. Thanks to a group of catfish captains, there was no way the Pack family was going to miss out on the fun.
Volunteer boat captains Jeff “Big Daddy” Dodd, Scott Lovelace, Roger Breedlove, Kevin Breedlove, and Cedric Poynor teamed up to deliver a special catfishing day to the family on Wednesday following the event that was missed.
The Dustin Pack family includes Skyler age 14, Eli age 10, Taylor age 10, Branson age 7, and Hudson age 6. The group gathered at Nickajack and the captains rotated the kids from one boat to another throughout the day.
In an awesome afternoon of “catching,” all five youngsters ended the day with a personal best. Seven-year-old Branson, currently in remission from stage 4 cancer, set the bar high and took Big Fish honors with a 52-pound Nickajack blue!
Sheryl Ridenour, USSA Representative for the state of Tennessee hosted both the Saturday and Wednesday events.
“We’re just getting events started here in TN,” said Ridenour following the Saturday event. “It’s off to a great start. My son, Hunter, is on the autistic spectrum and was once on the receiving end of this charity. It turned his world around!”
“Volunteers from the ‘Volunteer State’ made Big Cat dreams come true,” offered Brigid O’Donoghue COB, CEO, and Founder United Special Sportsman Alliance as she applauded the effort on Facebook. “Catfish anglers gathered together, giving a family an unforgettable fishing trip! The beautiful children caught many fish…!”
“I want to extend a special thanks to Driftmaster Rod Holders,” commented B’n’M Poles prostaff angler Cedric Poyner. “They made me a custom rod holder to help the kids fight big fish while setting.”
“There is nothing any better than seeing a kid smile and excited,” said Dodd, another B’n’M Poles prostaffer. “After a day like this, you realize that much in this world that we think of as important really doesn’t amount to nothing.”
Ridenour has stated that she wants to expand the program in Tennessee and welcomes volunteers willing to help in the future. She can be contacted through her Facebook page.
From the USSA website: USSA is composed of a 100% volunteer staff from all walks of life, bonded together by a common love for our fellow man and deep respect and appreciation of our world’s natural resources. Working cooperatively with caring “Adventure” donors as well as generous individual and corporate sponsors, USSA significantly impacts the lives of thousands of children, disabled veterans, and their families. Through these valuable efforts, the image of sportsmen is enhanced in the public eye, and lifelong friendships are made.
To learn more about the charity, please view the website at www.childswish.org.
The following photos tell the story better than words. CatfishNOW would like to thank the volunteer captains and congratulate the Tennessee Chapter of USSA and wish them the best of luck in their future programs.