‘It’s something you have to experience’
In a sense, this is Scott Roesner’s Labor Day weekend. And for going on nine years, it’s been a labor of love.
Yes, Roesner admits the annual Fishing Has No Boundaries is labor intensive. And this year the push toward the Aug. 27 event will be more hectic than ever, what with an overflow of participants and a shortage of boats and boat captains to accommodate all those anglers.
But when Roesner reflects on his personal experiences in the event, well, the rest just seems to wash away.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have this at the end of the summer,” said Roesner, who as chapter president of the Brainerd lakes Fishing Has No Boundaries has been there for all eight Brainerd FHNB events. “It’s a culmination of the whole summer and I look forward to it every year.”
That seems to be the consensus with most everyone who has been associated with FHNB. And for an event that’s entering its ninth year, that’s a lot of folks — the event, scheduled Aug. 27 on Gull and Sylvan lakes, depends heavily on volunteers. Each year, dozens of volunteers do everything from serve meals to help around Confidence Learning Center — the event’s headquarters — to hand out prizes.
And while finding enough boats and boat captains is a challenge each year, filling the 50-plus general volunteer positions has never been much of an issue. Because once you volunteer for FHNB, you’re hooked.
“It’s the overall experience that you actually touched somebody, and they truly appreciate what little you’ve done for them,” Roesner said of what keeps volunteers coming back. “I compare it to taking a kid fishing for the first time. You remember the joy and excitement and thrill and couldn’t care less how big the fish is or what they are. I like that whole time in the boat with them (the participants) and at camp with them. That I helped give them the joy of finding out what the great outdoors is for a lot of us. It’s such a simple thing. But we’ve made this world so complicated. It brings me back to a simpler time and pleasurable and meaningful time. It’s something you have to experience.”
The goal of FHNB is to provide outdoor and fishing opportunities to people with disabilities. The Brainerd lakes chapter event began with about 35 participants and has grown to regularly include 120-plus anglers, including 127 this year, Roesner said.
“This event is the highlight of my summer,” said Bob Slaybaugh, program director at Confidence Learning Center. “First of all, I like to fish. But it’s not about catching fish, it’s about the environment (surrounding the event). For the participants, they want to catch fish, but it’s not necessarily about catching fish. It’s about having the opportunity (to fish) and sharing common interests.”
While the event typically draws some of the best-known guides in the area, boat captains needn’t be big-time guides.
“You don’t need to be a pro guide,” Slaybaugh said. “It’s not a contest. What we look for is people who want to share an enthusiasm for fishing.
Local fishing icon Marv Koep again will serve as a guide in this year’s event, along with fellow Nisswa Guides League member Hank Ebert, who missed the first year of the event but has since served as a captain and boat captain coordinator for FHNB.
Boats and boat captains are always at a premium in the days leading up to the event and this year is no different. In fact, according to Ebert, because of several upcoming fishing tournaments and other events in the area, boats and boat captains are scarcer than ever for FHNB.
“It’s always stressed but ... it’s really stressed this year,” Ebert said. “We have 35 now, but we’ll need almost 60 (boats/captains), so we’ll need another 20 to 25.
“Almost everyone wishes they had done it sooner,” Ebert said of those who volunteer their boats and services as boat captains for the event. “Almost everyone comes back. I missed the first year and then was asked to do the boat captain thing and took over (as coordinator of boat captains). It’s great. It makes them so happy. It’s my chance to give back. The world’s been good to me.”
Those interested in serving as boat captains may call Ebert at 963-3492 or Roesner at 963-3401. Or go to www.brainerdlakesfhnb.org, click on the “Volunteer” tab and then the “2011 Boat Captain Registration Form.” Fill out the form and fax to 963-7503. Do not mail the completed form, Roesner said, as it may not arrive in time.
For more information on the event, go to www.brainerdlakesfhnb.org.