For the eleventh year in a row, Social Worker for the Blind, Lucy Plyler and second timer, Rhonda Greene, took a group of VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons) to the Outer Banks for the 36th Annual VIP Fishing Tournament. The combined groups from Cleveland and Rutherford Counties enjoyed a beautiful day of fishing off the Nags Head Pier and the Miss Oregan Inlet Head Boat on October 23rd. One member of the Cleveland County group, Dale Lieser of Kings Mountain, participated in the National Tournament on Wednesday, October 24th. He was invited to participate in the National VIP Tournament for winning 1st Place last year when he landed the largest fish caught - a 21" striped sea bass. This year he reeled in a 27" sand shark winning 1st Place overall for the second year. Dale was thrilled to land the shark after struggling to bring it in for several minutes. A crowd soon gathered and cheered as he pulled it in.
The weather conditions couldn't have been better on Tuesday with a high of 70 degrees and little wind. Wednesday's weather was much different with a high of 58 and wind gusts up to 35-40 mph. One VIP representing Rutherford County and First Timer, Gail Colley, brought home 3rd Place for the Miss Oregon Inlet. Other VIPs caught enough fish to earn some points, but everyone said they had a great time. The area Lions Clubs provide the rods, reels, and bait for each participant to make it fair and competitive. When a VIP catches a fish, a scorer comes to identify the type of fish and records the total number of points for each species of fish caught. At the end of the day, each VIP turns in their score card and awaits the announcement and award for the VIP who had the most points for the assigned pier and boat.
Each October, the tournament opens up four piers and two head boats to 500 VIPs and 350 volunteers from across North Carolina, Connecticut, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Alabama, and Canada. The annual event is the largest single fishing tournament for the blind and visually impaired and is sponsored by the First Flight, Nags Head, Manteo, Wanchese, Columbia, Currituck, Lower Currituck, and Plymouth Lions Clubs and the First Flight High School and Manteo High School Leo Clubs each October. Only fish caught on the participant's line and reeled in by the participant during the established time limit can be counted toward participant's total points in the tournament. Volunteers are only permitted to bait hooks and cast the line into the ocean.
The North Carolina Lions VIP Fishing Tournament, Inc. is a non-profit organization celebrating its 36th Anniversary this year. The project brings in participants for three days of recreation, fellowship, and independent living workshops designed to help VIPs (visually impaired persons). The VIP program touches the lives of a small percentage of those persons who are attempting to conform to a world of the sighted. Tournament officials recognize the need to build support and a financial base for the project. In-kind services secured locally and statewide help offset the annual costs.
Fund-raisers, such as the adopt-a-fisherman program, Golf Ball Drop, private and in-kind contributions and smaller projects cover expenses of the annual event that can exceed $200,000. Participants arrive on the Outer Banks on a Monday, are housed in local hotels, have six meals, go fishing on two head boats and four ocean fishing piers for a day of recreation, participate in seminars and independent living training, and visit with vendors who offer low vision and talking equipment. The project has grown from a local tournament serving 12 blind children to almost 500 participants.
Many thanks to Central United Methodist Church of Kings Mountain for their partnership in this project and their members/drivers, Richard and Janice Anderson, who drove many hours and miles, making it possible for the Cleveland and Rutherford County groups to participate again this year.
For more information about the Division of Services for the Blind, contact Lucy Plyler, Social Worker for the Blind at: 704-484-4872.
Pictured Back Row: L to R - Richard Anderson - Driver, Vernon Crocker (VIP), Gayla Crocker, Helen Craig, Doris Wilson (VIP), Dorothy Hopper, and Lizzie Hopper (VIP). Front Row: Rhonda Greene SWB Rutherford County, Gail Colley (VIP), Dale Lieser (VIP), Gerald Jones (VIP), Janice Anderson - Driver, Tara Ann Smith, Delores Lattimore (VIP), and Lucy Plyler SWB Cleveland County.
Submitted by Lucy Plyler