The Shriners have become synonymous with helping out sick kids through their hospitals since 1922.
And now, two motivated teens are doing their part to help raise funds for those kids through their favourite pastime.
Garret, 17, and Eric Barker, 13, son of Brian Barker and stepmother Donna Russell, will be casting their lines in the fresh waters of Lake of the Woods in hopes of raising funds for Shriners, the organization their family has been tied to for years.
"Casting 4 Kids is a fundraisier to raise money for the Shrine Hospital Patient Transportation Fund (SHPTF)," Russell said. "We got the idea one day last summer, we were out at the lake talking about the Kenora Bass International tournament (KBI). My father is a Shriner and the boys thought it would be a good idea to raise money for the Shrine through something they love and the two just came together."
While this is the 27th year for the KBI, this will be the first year for Casting 4 Kids, which will be held at the KBI tournament, which runs Aug. 7 to 9. The brothers intend to make it an annual event in conjunction with KBI in the future.
"They are the youngest team ever to be entered into the KBI," said Russell. "Normally you have to have at least one adult and a youth, but they have made an exception for Garret and Eric."
Participating in the tournament was also a bit of a milestone for the Barkers.
"Four years ago, Eric suffered a severe injury to his left elbow, losing mobility and function of his left hand," said Barker. "Several surgeries later, and thanks to orthopedic surgeons, he is back fishing in hopes to raise money for children who don’t have the opportunities they do.
"Garret and Eric are excited to be able to help send a child to a Shriners Hospital to get medical treatment they need so they, too, can to do the things they love."
The Shriners of North America opened the doors to their first hospital in 1922 and since then have become a leader in providing specialized care to children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and an array of other issues, free of charge. The budget for each year from transportation costs is $230,000.
"Whenever a child has been accepted into a Shriners Hospital, where that child is from, it is the Shriners responsibility in that jurisdiction to pay for the transportation of child and parent," said Russell. "That is what all the money is raised for.
"My dad, Hank Russell, has been a Shriner for over 35 years and we thought it would be great to continue to walk in his path and the Shriners. The Shriners are the world’s greatest philanthropy organization and we wanted to do something to help out the membership, something new, raising money and fishing at the same time. The Shriners make the path so that children may make the journey."
The Shriners of North America spend $1.75 million each day, 365 days a year, in the operation of their Shriners Hospitals for Children.
"The cost of the hospitals only continues to increase," said Barker. "The money raised by the Shrine Circus can’t compete with the high medical costs"
Fishing is a big part of Brian, Donna and their boys’ lives, so it was a no-brainer to combine the two together. And it has taken off from there, with the boys having raised over $7,000 to date heading into the tournament, having raised the cash through corporate sponsorships and word-of-mouth.
The money raised will be presented after the final weigh-ins on Aug. 9, an event that will be broadcast live by Shaw TV. All of the money raised will go straight to the charity.
The Barkers would like to thank everyone who has donated to Casting 4 Kids and have assisted along the way. They also offered thanks to Erik Johnson, of Express Connexions, who donated his time to build the website https://casting4kids.ca and to handle every aspect of their computer needs.