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Fishing for the Fatherless

The old proverb, "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime," has some real-life consequences for fatherless boys in Florida.

William "Big Will" Dunn, befriended an 8-year-old boy who lived across the street and who he noticed repeatedly storming in and out of his house, directionless. The young man didn't have a father, and Dunn thought spending a day fishing may help him forget his problems just as it had for Dunn all his life. So, he asked permission from the boy's mother, and she agreed.

Before he knew it, that one Saturday turned into years of Saturdays with Dunn teaching the boys' friends and other neighborhood kids how to bait a hook, rig a line, hold a pole, cast, and reel in some fish. It was equally important to know what to throw back, like the sharks that were occasionally found dangling from the hook as they emerged from the waters.

Most of the boys didn't have father figures in their lives; some were foster kids shuffled around from house to house, and some had never fished before. They all lived difficult and complex lives that a few hours of fishing helped simplify, if only for that day. When they fished, their problems seemed to fade away.

At first, Dunn took a good chunk of his paycheck from selling tires to help fund the charter boats used for weekend fishing trips and to purchase fishing gear. That was fifteen years ago.

Today, Dunn is the Founder and CEO of Take a Kid Fishing, the non-profit that grew from his dedication to helping underprivileged and fatherless kids by teaching them life skills and responsibility through fishing:

  • Fishing teaches kids to learn from every mistake.

  • Sometimes, the things we think we want, we just need to throw back.

  • Being disciplined and having a can-do spirit will take you a long way.

  • The lesson is that oftentimes you may have to do seemingly dull and tedious tasks, but they can pay off in the long run. Just stick with it.

  • Don't lose sight of your surroundings. You can't take advantage of an opportunity if you don't see it coming.

In the past three and a half years, his non-profit has introduced more than 2,500 fatherless boys to the experience of fishing - spending peaceful time on the waters and the excitement of feeling that gentle tug on the end of the line. So far, over 100,000 fish have been caught during their 600 fishing trips with up to 20 kids at a time.

According to Dunn, they only keep what they need and throw the rest back, then fry up the fish at the end of

the day or make fish tacos. Kids can sense he's genuine and accepts them where they are. It's a transformative experience that helps them heal and confidently move forward into adulthood.

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