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Group sponsors Murrysville fishing derby for children with special needs

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 11:08 a.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Christian Girvin of Franklin Regional Senior High School (left) works with partner Nick Fazio, a Franklin Regional Senior High School National Honor Society member, during a 2013 fishing derby at Haymaker Run in Murrysville. Sportsmen and Landowners Alliance of Murrysville hosts the annual fishing derby for mentally disabled children.

Dozens of fishing lines dipped into Haymaker Run as children wrapped their small fingers around their rod handles and hoped hungry trout would spring for the worms.

Some sat on rocks and watched. Others inched a little closer, confidently holding out the poles.

“Here fishy, fishy,” one boy said, bobbing the pole up and down.

About 60 children from Clelian Heights near Greensburg, the Children's Institute in Pittsburgh and Franklin Regional schools in Murrysville crowded around Haymaker Run Monday for the fishing derby. The Sportsmen and Landowners Alliance of Murrysville sponsors the derby for children with special needs every year.

“It's a special day for special kids,” said Jim Pees, one of the organizers. “For a lot of them, it means the world. They come out here ... to do kids' things, ”

The league, which maintains the stream, stocked about 375 palomino, brook, rainbow and brown trout for the derby.

They passed out fishing rods and cups packed with dirt and worms for the kids.

The event, run by volunteers, relies on donations of a few thousand dollars.

Buddies from Franklin Regional showed the kids how to hook the bait and then the anglers took off to different spots along the stream.

Rohan Hattangady, a Franklin High School junior who volunteered as a buddy, surveyed the stream as he helped the children put worms on their hooks.

“I don't know if they get to do a lot of events like this during the school year, so it's a special time,” he said. “I think it makes their day if they catch a fish. They'll remember it for a long time.”

The strategies differ.

Some go off to sit alone. Others team up, believing they'll have a better shot if they tempt the trout with several worms.

Each time a fish is caught and pulled to the bank, the teachers and children erupt in cheers.

The kids hold up their fish, posing for pictures before bringing them over to Pees and other league members to be cleaned.

Each fish is gutted and packed in an ice cooler for the children to take back to their school. Plans for a fish fry are in the works, organizers said.

“We are so proud to do this,” Pees said. “Like most kids, they all love to do this. You have to see it to appreciate it.”

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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