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Aug 16, 2021

Fishing Has No Boundaries: The eyes tell us how special it is for so many

On a heaven-sent Saturday, nestled inside a recreational area on Iowa’s eastern wing, wonderful was everywhere.

Everywhere, I tell ya.

Ooohs matched ahhhs. Friendships — kinships of eight years for some — were cemented and new — soon to be long-lasting bonds — were formed.

Even the crusty found their hearts attached to their sleeves.

And the eyes, oh those beautiful, anticipatory eyes, sparkling as brightly as the glistening waters they scanned. Stories, legendary by day’s end of monsters that slipped a hook, were replaced with true-life tales of landing “the big one.’’

With respect to all that is good, Fishing Has No Boundaries is — and will always be — great. It is a day — glorious on so many fronts — that provides recreational fishing opportunities for all anglers with disabilities regardless of their age, race, gender, or disability.

It also provides for those who give to make the day special for others, so much more. More than anything, it provides a perspective most don’t see on a regular basis. It is both eye-opening and heart-warming. You know it, because you are touched by it.

On a personal note, I’ve watched Rock Valley Physical Therapy — first as a newspaper columnist and now — up close as a grateful member of the family — continuing to do what it does best.

By investing in the lives of those it serves, RVPT family members — and there is no side-stepping Rock Valley being a family  — make time to better the lives of others. I saw it eight years ago when the Eastern Iowa Fishing Has No Boundaries project took flight and I witnessed it again on a recent Saturday.

Giving is simply second nature to those who call Rock Valley home.

“Just another great day,’’ said Allison McGraw, Level Two Occupational Therapist (OTR/L) and clinic manager at Rock Valley Physical Therapy’s Clinton, Iowa-based clinic. McGraw, a smile-producing machine, heads the Eastern Iowa chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries.

A mother of two, McGraw paid homage to the many Rock Valley family members — Lisa Bartels, Nicole Gruhn, Kerri Hurning, Holly Wilkinson, Jason Tampir, Misti Ferguson, Kyle Pospischil. Kevin Kelley, Megan Kelley, who took the time to share — in a variety of ways — with those FHNB serves.  Some worked registration tables, others prepped anglers with poles, bait, life jackets and a bevy of “good lucks.’’

Hurning, the clinic manager at RVPT’s DeWitt, Iowa-based clinic, shared the day with her father, Tom Gall, who served as a boat captain and made — a friend for life — in their angler, Jamie.

“I am not sure I can express enough that this (Eastern Iowa) organization/ chapter would not be here today without all of the support Rock Valley has given,’’ McGraw said as she put a monster hug on her son, Aiden, and picked up her daughter, Allie, and hugged and thanked her for her patience while Mom was attending to a variety of duties. It was Aiden McGraw and Lincoln Kelley, son of Megan and Kevin Kelley, who would take to a spot on the lake later in the day and form a fishing friendship of their own.

 “I cannot thank them enough,’’ McGraw continued, marveling at Rock Valley’s give-back attitude and spirit. “It is such an honor to work with these individuals and with our company. We are all truly a family that wants to “Make Better Lives” inside and outside the clinic.’’

Nearly three dozen special-needs anglers spent nearly three hours looking to land the big one, all brought to life by land volunteers (poles, registration, bait, and life jackets) and boat captains, who gave their time, their boats and their amazing energy in making the day come to life.

“You appreciate everyone, but you get to see a bond with our anglers and their boat captains,’’ McGraw said, noting the importance of an event that gets volunteers and anglers out — on the water — when pandemic uncertainty is at every turn

 “We have people who sign up and  request their captain from last year or they keep in touch with each other,’’ McGraw added. “It takes a great deal of work to donate your boat and your time. Our boat captains are near and dear to us, but everyone here is near and dear to us.’’

It was a special day, brought to life by amazing people, so that others — those who might not have the chance — were given an amazing day of their own.

The eyes told us so.

By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller