It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since my father’s passing. In those five years, his Foundation has partnered with Make A Wish, the Outdoor Dream Foundation, and the VA Hospital of Miami. Like Jose, we are always looking for new relationships to broaden the diversity of individuals while still staying true to what Jose’s Foundation is all about: Making Fishing Dreams Come True.
In 2016, the board decided a focus on the Keys community was important. Jose always did what he could to share and promote his lifestyle, the Florida Keys lifestyle. Viewers watched, and lived, his lifestyle vicariously for 17 years. It was time that we gave back to the community that made him what he was. A kind, humble, caring and very tan man.
A meeting was set up with Wesley House Family Services. Wesley House is an organization that promotes and enhances the safety, well-being and development of children by educating, supporting and meeting the needs of families. If the child cannot remain in parental care, Wesley House provides foster and adoption services throughout Monroe County. Most of these children do not have the tools and opportunities to fully take advantage of the Keys lifestyle, and as a Keys kid myself, I know that if you don’t embrace the ocean there is not much to do down here. And, most of us know when kids get bored they can get into trouble.
Our first trip with Wesley House was a success and the impact was exactly what we were hoping for. That spark went off, and a passion for fishing was ignited. Because of the sensitive circumstances of each child we cannot always share the full story or show all the pictures. So to be brief, our first kid, Chris, and his four siblings are in foster care. Jeremy, who is the Director of Community Development of Wesley House, his foster dad Norman, Captain Dave, Captain Kevin and myself met at the marina. It was important for Norman and Chris to have some time together. It provided them a chance to bond and relax.
A true example of the fishing diversity can be found at the S-Tower, which is 35 miles north-west of Key West. Throughout the water, columns of a variety of fish can be found. Permit, grouper, cobia, snapper, barracuda, jacks, sharks … the list goes on and Chris caught all of them. One highlight that stands out was when Jeremy caught a 300+lb goliath grouper. It was his first, and since you can’t take them out of the water, Jeremy decided to jump in and get a picture. Not to worry, he has a lot of experience as an avid diver, and no human or fish was harmed.
Since Chris’ trip, we have brought four kids fishing. Since Wesley House is local, trips are easily planned. After school, kids like Chris were able to hop on the boat for a few hours and catch some fish. Hopefully, our growing relationship with Wesley House will not only strengthen our children and community in the Keys, but it will also give a kid a chance to pursue a passion that s/he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to without.
Fishing may not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.