DERBY, Conn. — The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation hosted an event April 10 at Griffin Hospital as part of Autism Awareness Month.
Members of the B.A.S.S. Nation and of the general public attended the seminar, which was intended to make people aware of the disorder and how it affects families.
“We have been touched by autism,” said Michael Zadroga, a member of the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation tournament committee and organizer of the event. Two members of the B.A.S.S. Nation in the Northeast, Eli Delany and Mark Burgess, have sons with autism and have been supporters of autism research.
Delany was among the speakers at the seminar, along with Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation member and 2014 Bassmaster Classic runner-up Paul Mueller, the state chapter’s youth director Terry Baksay and the state chapter president Sylvia Morris.
“It was a great success,” said Zadroga, “and we exceeded my expectations for the event and turnout. We have a great B.A.S.S. Nation group in Connecticut.
“Eli did an amazing job.” Zadroga continued. “He really opened up and told some great stories of him and his son, Luke. Many families in attendance related to his experience, and I could feel the instant bond, almost like bass fishermen telling fish stories. He also went in to details on how and where to find help, information and education.”
Delany led the discussion and opened the floor up for questions.
“The first few times I took Luke out in the boat I was terrified,” said Delany. “I did not know what was going to happen. But it went very well. Luke loved the sensation of the boat breaking over on plane. Now, a few years later, he tells me to ‘go fast’ and enjoys catching and releasing the bass we catch. He even helps me wipe the boat down at the end of the day.”
Morris pointed out that the autism event was just another example that the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation is more than just a fishing group. She added it to the long list of community efforts the chapter is involved in, including the 26 Angels Foundation and a college scholarship program.
“It was a good faith community event,” said Zadroga, “and I was really pleased with it.”
Griffin Hospital supported the gathering by hosting the seminar and helping get the word out about it, and Zadroga's employer, Unidine, provided the food. Companies that sponsored the event were Fishin’ with a Mission, Rod Glove, Solar Bat, CARE Inc., the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation, Reynolds Garage & Marine, BBG Marine Electronics, Thayer’s Marine, Lunker City and Cabela’s.
See the video below of Luke Delany getting ready for a day on the water, and learn more about Eli Delany’s autism awareness efforts here.