KURE BEACH, N.C. --
The stage was set. The sun was shining and there were no clouds in sight. Fishing poles hung off both sides of the pier with the hopes of catching a plethora of fish during the free tournament.
Step Up For Soldiers, a volunteer organization dedicated to helping current service members and veterans alike, hosted their seventh annual Children’s Fishing Tournament on Kure Fishing Pier June 9. More than 120 children were registered for the event, with many more coming and going throughout the day.
Everything from food, refreshments, fishing poles and bait was provided for children and adults who participated. The mid-summer weather combined with the Atlantic breeze made being in the sun for five hours very comfortable.
“The Children’s Fishing Tournament is an effort by us to give back to the families,” said Tom Russell, president and founder of SUFS. “It’s a day of fun fishing for the children, and it’s an opportunity to get military families to spend a day together. The more we keep military families together, the more we can keep our country together.”
Everything was donated by different companies for the occasion. Prizes were also donated to the organization so they can give the children awards for participating in the event.
“This town really does a lot for this tournament by helping out however they can,” said Russell. “They realize the importance of this event every year and they try to accommodate us as much as possible so it doesn’t cost us too much to host for the children.”
Children and parents lined the pier, angling for fish in the hopes of winning an award for one. Trophies were given out to children who caught the ugliest fish, heaviest fish, lightest fish, first fish caught, and last fish caught among others as well.
Jim Verdon, vice president of operations for SUFS, said the organization always tries to do something special for the children. He said at one of the previous fishing tournaments a child’s mother returned from deployment just days before the event, and she hadn’t seen her family yet. SUFS was able to coordinate her surprise arrival to the event to see her family for the first time in months.
“It’s the kinds of things we like to do for these families,” said Verdon. “We just want to give back to those who give everything for us.”
The Children’s Fishing Tournament is the big occasion SUFS coordinates every year, but they also hold other events throughout the year, including a 4th of July party next month.
For more information on SUFS, visit http://www.stepupforsoldiers.org/