There are no easy paths in Kristopher Lirette's journey through life. The 30-year-old is confined to a wheelchair as cerebral palsy has left him deaf and susceptible to seizures. Yet as he makes his way down a gravel path at Green Timbers Lake in Surrey and inches closer to the shoreline, his face lights up at the sight of a fishing rod. With the help of Rob Ausma, a quick cast into the lake and a smile lights up his face.
Ausma is the chairman of Surrey's Fishing Forever, a B.C. Wildlife Federation initiative to offer people with disabilities the chance to experience casting rod and reel for a day. As a light rain dots the top of the lake, Ausma guides Lirette's line back into shore.
He explains why he relishes the opportunity to help those who would never have the chance to experience the pleasure of a hobby that so many others take for granted.
"It really is just about seeing the smiles on their faces. Someone will catch a fish and the look on their face can bring you to tears. It's incredible."
This year's Fishing Forever will take place June 9 at Green Timbers Lake in Surrey starting at 9 a.m. and will offer 100 people like Kristopher the opportunity to take in a day on the shoreline looking to land some of the more than 300 rainbow trout that will be stocked courtesy of the Freshwater Fish-ing Society. The event, started in 1989 by broadcast journalist Walt Liimatainen, is aimed at spreading the message that people with disabilities can enjoy the great outdoors.
For Ausma, the event benefits not just the participants, but the community as a whole. He said the countless hours of the more than 30 volunteers coupled with the donations to host the event prove the community's heart is in the right place.
"Everybody has to do their part," notes Ausma. "Fishing Forever is the success it is because of the generous support of so many people."
But for Ausma, the idea of giving back reaches back to his early childhood. At the tender age of 11, he lost his three-year-old brother to leukaemia.
"When you are a kid, something like that really hits home. Ever since then I've always wanted to give back."
His life took another fateful turn when he was 17 and nearly lost his leg in an accident. But through hard work and the help of those around him, Ausma has kept walking despite the odds against him. A life shaped by giving back is what inspires the avid angler to help with Fishing Forever.
"When we opened the invitation for people to come fishing, we had 75 spots filled in just four days. It breaks my heart to have to tell people no, sorry we are full."
Ausma said they are hoping they can add a second date to the event, but face obstacles in getting enough volunteers and the proper permits in place in such short time. Despite the challenges, he is confident they can succeed, based on the response of those already involved.
Ausma, not wanting to ignore the host of sponsors and volunteers, is grateful to members of the business community like Tim Hortons for supplying coffee and snacks, Stillwater Sports in Ladner for offering the use of fishing poles, Budget Foods in Ladner and Freybe Gourmet Foods for barbecue supplies, and Maple Leaf Disposal for the use of outhouses.
He is also thankful to the Delta/Ladner Rod and Gun Club for its members' tireless work.
"I would be here days listing off the people who help make this happen. We are forever thankful to everyone involved."
For more information on Fishing Forever, visit the Programs section of the BC. Wildlife Federation's website at www.bcwf.net.