The Fay family write about their trip down to the Keys.
You have a special place in our hearts, for everything that you have done for Tommy and our family.
“I wish to fish!”, Tommy’s reply to Deb and Fran, visiting with him from the Make A Wish Foundation in Pittsburgh. For as long as he can remember, Tommy has listened to the amazing stories of deep sea fishing in Florida, told by his step father, Bob, who was fortunate to have the opportunity to fish there as a youth.
Reading books and watching fishing and nature shows on TV fueled Tommy’s fascination with fish, sealife and the ocean. He would dream of going to Florida with Bob. They would go deep sea fishing to catch all of the magnificent fish he had seen only on TV and in books.
Sharks, Mackerel, Sailfish, Tarpon and Dolphin! What a grand trip it would be! As a family we enjoy fishing for bass and catfish in the rivers and lakes near Pittsburgh. Tommy makes an adventure out of stocking an old tackle box with lures he finds at garage sales and flea markets, always looking for tackle to use on his dream Florida fishing trip. Countless hours are spent sorting, organizing and caring for his lure collection, with Bob’s guidance, while they re-live their local fishing trips and plan for future adventures.
Jose Wejebe, a young man whose life was transformed by his love of the ocean and fishing continues to shape the lives of others through his passion. In his memory, the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation has transformed the lives of Tommy Fay and our family. When you learned of Tommy’s wish through the Make A Wish Foundation, you choreographed Tommy’s dreams into the adventure of a lifetime! Through the generosity of the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation, UnderArmour, Shimano, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Yeti Coolers, Captain Jim Sharpe, Bill Spottswood, Dr. Vaughn and countless others, Tommy was able to experience some of the same adventures that your father, Jose Wejebe so loved!
Flying into Miami, we could not imagine how incredible our trip would be. The long drive to the Keys was great! The ocean and clouds were beautiful – and so many different birds! Even a short rainstorm was neat, the sun made the raindrops look like sparkling jewels! The island of Ramrod Key was really nice. This is where we met Krissy Wejebe and Ralph, caretaker and guide, who waited for us. Everybody was excited! My mom and Bob and my brothers Mike and Danny and sister Susie could not stop smiling, especially when we boarded the boat to ride to our new “home away from home”. We stared in awe at the beauty of the island – hundreds of cute little hermit crabs, iguanas and birds were everywhere! It was paradise! Everyone got their own private bedroom AND bathroom! The rest of the house was really cool too. There was a ping pong table in the living room, and TWO refrigerators FILLED with food. All of my favorite food too! I am always hungry, and so are my brothers. The rooftop deck was one of our favorite places to have a snack and watch the birds.
Besides having lots of food, Krissy had presents for us. Two giant Shimano Gear Bags were filled so full, that when we unzipped them, presents exploded from inside! We were all amazed at the generosity of UnderArmour, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Yeti Coolers and Shimano! It was like Christmas! It was a fisherman’s dream!!!! UnderArmour Fishing clothing for every day of the trip – shirts, pants, hats, jackets of all sorts of styles, and great to go fishing in. Costa Sunglasses, the best sunglasses ever! A Yeti Cooler – the coolest cooler ever made! From Shimano, there was an awesome brand new reel – the SAME REEL I looked at whenever I visited the sporting goods store near my house in Pittsburgh – and a ton of new lures that I could not wait to try out!
Our Grand Adventure had only just begun. The days that followed were filled with lots of activities. The next day included touring Key West and seeing lots of history things and crazy characters. Then, an afternoon exploring our island. Thank you to Bill Spottswood and his family for sharing this island treasure with us! We kayaked and canoed around the island – spotting sharks, horseshoe crabs and fish of every color of the rainbow. We fished off the dock until late at night, while Ralph entertained us with stories of the history of the island and the wildlife found there. It was so much fun!
The next morning, we were met by Sea Boots! Captain Jim Sharpe sailed to greet us bright and early, with his giant white fishing boat shining in the sun. Thank you to Captain Jim and mates Al and John who were assisted by Caleb, for their expert fishing advice. Krissy with her Spanish Fly TV cameraman Mikey were on board to capture every moment on the trip. I got to wear a microphone so they could record me talking while we were fishing. Once I got used to the microphone I thought it was really neat. Heading out to sea, they pointed out the schools of porpoises and giant sea turtles. What a sight! The fishing trip that I often thought about for a day in the future – was NOW! My first catch was a Bonita – the biggest fish I ever caught! It was a lot of work to reel it in, but it was exciting and really fun! Mike was next with a King Mackerel. My mom was waiting to get to say “Holy Mackerel!”, and she did. What a day! It wasn’t long before we heard the clutch buzzing the alarm – “Fish on!” I shouted. This time it was my brother Danny’s turn. For almost twenty minutes he worked the reel, pulling in the next catch. I will never forget the moment we could see what he had – a sailfish! It was incredible! My mom said I was grinning from ear to ear while I watched Al carefully land it without harm. The fish was beautiful! We were pleased to wish him well as we returned him safely to his ocean home. Bob caught the
next fish, it was a shark and it was really cool, too. Another Bonita for me ended our day as we returned to the island to talk about all the things that we had seen, and the wonderful new friends we had met.
We were up early the next morning to be greeted by Captain Jim, Al, John, Caleb and Krissy on Sea Boots, for another full day of fishing! I was so excited to have another chance to fish with everyone again. Captain Jim and the crew taught me to watch for the Man o War Birds. They explained that this bird follows the big fish. They don’t land on the water, so they circle above and when the smaller fish jump out of the water being chased by big fish, they swoop down and catch them. The crew and Captain Jim shared stories of their fishing trips, as well as their knowledge of how to “find the big fish”. The day was beautiful, with flying fish gliding above the water. They were shiny when the sun hit them and the sky was very blue. Me and my brother Mike each caught a Bonita. They are pretty big, and look neat. I caught a brown shark, and Mike caught another Bonita. A Ceros Mackerel put up quite a fight for me, and then Mike caught a colorful dolphin. Spying a Man o War bird, Captain Jim expertly guided the boat beneath the bird. We waited and watched the lines – six of them to watch is so exciting! Suddenly the tell tale buzz of the clutch told us another fish was on – and it sounded BIG! I worked and worked and worked. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we finally saw the bright color of a huge Bull Dolphin.
I will never forget that! Al and John exclaimed that it was very large for this time of year, weighing 35-40 pounds. They also said that they could win a tournament with a catch like that. I was really proud and excited to be able to share this experience with Bob as I had always dreamed. Our total catch that day was five Bonita, a brown shark, a Ceros Mackerel and two Bull Dolphin. That was a LOT of fish! We returned to our island to re-tell our tales of the day, while Bob grilled the fresh catch for a fantastic and delicious family feast.
Our last day started with an outing to the Mote Marine Laboratory on Summerland Key. Krissy and Mikey escorted us to meet Dr Vaughn, who gave us a tour of the facility. Dr Vaughn explained the many important projects being researched at the lab. One of the most impressive projects was their work to grow live coral. Restoring the reefs by introducing the coral they cultivate is essential to the health of the ocean and our world. I learned about how the pollution in our air and water affects the sea and the creatures that live there. Thank you to Dr Vaughn for sharing his knowledge with me and my family and his work to make the world a better place. He shared valuable advice as I look to the future. I want to be a marine biologist – now, more than ever! I am excited to learn more about the sealife I have seen. We spent the rest of the day exploring the natural beach at Bahia Honda. We found lots of interesting shells, coral pieces and sea sponges. That evening we met Krissy and Mikey and more new friends – Dave and Erin – at Jose Wejebe’s favorite restaurant, called the Square Grouper. They shared stories of their lives and homes in the Keys, and of the legendary Jose Wejebe. We were told that the restaurant was one of the best places to go for seafood – and it was! Thank you to the Square Grouper for an outstanding dinner and cool restaurant.
Without the generosity of all of my new friends, I would not have so many great memories and stories to tell. I am thankful for the opportunity to experience many of the things that Jose Wejebe did. I know that he was with us in spirit, and that he also had a great time! I will remember every exciting minute of my adventure and will keep these memories with me every day!
Over the years, Tommy has had significant complications from his epilepsy and the medications to control it. His endurance is limited and plans can change rapidly as a result. Tommy has a strong love of nature – especially the sea and the marvelous creatures found there. He aspires to be a marine biologist and nature photographer. He never fails to notice the details in the natural world around him—the colors of the flowers, the varied shapes of the multitude of mushrooms that grow in his yard during the springtime rain showers, and more. He soaks up every detail of the natural treasures he finds, and remembers it ALL. Complex social situations are a tremendous challenge for Tommy, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome on the Autism Spectrum. However, his ability to see the beauty of the natural world around him, in vivid detail, is a special gift. This is a gift not only for Tommy, but for our family. We are reminded of the wonder of the smallest of details in nature, and make the most of every moment we have.
Krissy, the gift that you have given us with your friendship and kindness, plus the kindness of all of your sponsors and the Jose Wejebe Spanish Fly Memorial Foundation is priceless. Sharing the vision and generous work of your father with us has changed our lives. The world is truly a much better place through his generous spirit, and your continued efforts through his foundation. We cannot thank you enough for everything that everyone has done for Tommy and our family.
Jenny, Bob, Tommy, Mike, Danny & Susie ( aka The Fay Family)