A pair of Island Lakes brothers are getting ready to cast their lines in support of the Shriners for another year.
Brothers Eric, 17, and Garret, 20, are two busy young men working full-time jobs, sometimes with overtime. They love anything related to the great outdoors, having spent much of their lives exploring the Canadian Shield, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling throughout the Whiteshell and Lake of the Woods. They’re also actively involved in community giving.
In 2013, Donna Barker, her husband Brian, her father Hank Russell, and two sons Eric and Garret were sitting on the dock at the family cabin in Lake of the Woods. Russell, a Shriner for 47 years, and family members, were discussing the declining membership of the Shrine.
"Declining membership means not as much money raised to help children in need of specialized medical services," Barker explained.
That’s when Donna and Brian Barker assisted their boys in starting a fundraiser, working together on creating the website, and helping to fundraise from local businesses. The Khartum Shrine and Lake of the Woods Shrine Club supported the fundraising in Kenora.
"The boys love fishing and wanted to go into the Kenora Bass International (KBI) Fishing Tournament. We thought that it would be a great way to raise money and teach the boys about giving back at the same time. We came up with Casting 4 Kids," Barker said.
The first Casting 4 Kids fundraiser was held in 2014. Since that time the brothers have raised nearly $25,000, with all money going directly to the Khartum Shrine Patient Transportation Fund, which sends children in need of medical attention to one of the 26 Shrine Hospitals in North America. The Shriners of North America opened their first hospital in 1922.
Today they operate a world class network of specialized hospitals that treat children with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and other maladies, free of charge. All the money raised from Casting 4 Kids goes to assist families’ travelling/accommodations, to be with their kids who are confined to hospitals.
Garret and Eric have presented cheques to two of the Shrine patients and seen firsthand the impact of their giving. They look forward to the tournament every year.
"The fishing is fun but seeing the kids they help is why we are doing the fundraising. It’s a great feeling knowing that these kids are getting the help they need and our efforts make a difference," Barker said, adding that the Shriners of North America spend $1.75 million each day, 365 days a year, in the operation of their Shriners Hospitals for Children.
This year, Michael Guertin and the family of Guertin Equipment will be donating a boat for the boys to use in the tournament. The KBI board members and volunteers continue to assist the family.
This year’s KBI tournament runs Aug. 10 to 12 at the Kenora Harbourfront.
For more information go online at: www.casting4kids.ca