Fishing rodeo held at Crenshaw County Lake for special needs students

Published 5:04 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Self-contained special needs students from Crenshaw County Schools took a break from the classroom Sept. 28 to enjoy a beautiful, yet windy day of fishing at Crenshaw County Lake.

The Luverne Kiwanis Club hosted the annual fishing rodeo as smiling students, eager to reel in a big one, surrounded the small body of water. Sounds of joyful celebration could be heard coming from both students and teachers upon the catching of a fish.

Email newsletter signup

Samantha Wheeler Odom, a Licensed Practical Nurse/paraprofessional at Brantley School, attended the fishing rodeo for the first time.

“The fishing rodeo presents our students with the opportunity to explore the world while using different sensory skills,” Odom said. “It involves them taking turns, sharing, waiting, and communicating, all essential life skills. Children also need the chance to play freely, and the fishing rodeo is the perfect place for them to engage in unstructured play. We are so thankful that this opportunity has been provided to our children.”

Assisting with the event were Jon Bush and Justin Renfroe, students at Brantley along with 20 students from Crenshaw Christian Academy.

Jake Bodry, an 11th grader at CCA, loves to fish and was happy he could help with the fishing rodeo.

“I love fishing, and it is nice that these kids can experience it,” he said. “A lot of times, I think people with disabilities are only looked at as being different and not for what they can do. Some kids like this don’t always get the same kinds of opportunities as others, so I think it is good for them to be out here and know that we are all the same and nobody is better than anyone else.”

Senior State Trooper Tracy Morgan with the Marine Patrol Division assisted with the event. The fishing rodeo is something Morgan looked forward to attending.

“I was super excited when Jon and the Kiwanis Club asked me to assist with the fishing rodeo,” Morgan said. “It’s always a blessing for me to be a part of the outdoors and to be able to share my love for it with children that may not ever have a chance to experience the outdoors without groups like the Luverne Kiwanis Club. It was just an awesome experience and a lot of fun.”

Courtney Johnson Morrow, a Special Education Resource teacher at Luverne, said she was glad to have her students back at the fishing rodeo after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

“Since COVID has taken a backseat, we are glad to be back out here fishing and having a good time in the nice fall weather,” she said. “This trip is a break from the classroom for our students and it gives them an opportunity to interact with kids throughout the county that are just like them.

“This teaches some social skills and emotional behavior management. When they don’t catch a fish and get upset, we can kind of redirect and say, ‘It’s OK, we are going to try again.’ It teaches perseverance and persistence and to keep trying. The kids love it, and it does my heart good to see them enjoy something like this.

Tracy Davis, Special Education Resource teacher at Highland Home, said that the fishing rodeo is a positive experience for all those involved.

“The fishing rodeo is a wonderful opportunity for our students to meet and get to know other local students that they might not otherwise get to meet, and have a positive and fun interaction with them. It helps promote compassion, understanding, and inclusivity for all of us. Plus, it’s fun and recreation which we all enjoy” Davis said.
The event was made possible by volunteers and generous donations. Pond Stocker II in Luverne donated 500 catfish to put into the fishing area, and Conecuh Bait and Tackle in Gantt supplied fishing necessities.

The Luverne Kiwanis Club hosted the fishing rodeo for the first time this year as in the past it was held by the Luverne Rotary Club, the organization that started the event. Jessica Folmar, Kiwanis Club president, said she is grateful she was able to play a role in the fishing rodeo and is looking forward to helping with the event for years to come.
“I am very thankful that my husband and I were able to be involved and share our love of fishing with these precious kids,” she said. “It was amazing to see the kids enjoy the outdoors and have fun with a new experience. Kiwanis is extremely grateful to continue the fishing rodeo started by the Rotary Club.”
The Kiwanis Club purchased the bait, along with new rods and reels that will continue to be used at the annual event.

Due to the upcoming multiyear closure of Crenshaw County Lake for repairs and renovations, a new, temporary location will be needed for future fishing rodeos. If interested in providing a location, please contact the Luverne Kiwanis Club on Facebook.