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SALEM — Over 1,000 Utah children with special needs got the opportunity to experience the great outdoors by casting a line into Salem Pond Tuesday.
The 25th annual Kids with Disabilities Fishing Day kicked off with children from school districts all over Utah County. The children are each given the change to try their luck with a fishing pole and see if the fish will bite.
“Many of these children have never had the opportunity to go out and catch a fish, and so we enjoy providing that opportunity to them and showing them what there is out there and what they can go and accomplish,” said founder Mike Pritchett.
Pritchett, along with his brother, Kevin, started the event with the help of the National Forest Service 25 years ago. That first fishing day included 15 children, and this year more than 1,100 showed up to participate in the fun.
It’s become a highly anticipated event in the community, the Pritchetts said.
“We run into their parents on the street and they say, ‘Hey, my kid is so excited to go to that fishing day,’” said Kevin Pritchett.
Not only has the attendance grown, but so has the participation from local businesses and agencies. The fishes are donated by the Division of Wildlife Resources and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. Fresh Market provided lunch for all the children. Businesses like Cabela's and Sportsman’s Warehouse send representatives to help make the day a memorable one for the children involved.
“Everybody stepped up and helped,” said Kevin Pritchett. “Once they come, you don’t have to ask again. They call me wanting to know what they can do to help.”
For the Pritchett brothers, watching the children experience something they love is the greatest catch of the day.
“The joy, the smiles on these children’s faces are priceless,” said Mike Pritchett.