As many of you know I’ve been involved with autism for several years now. My interest started when I met and became friends with Eli Delany. He worked many years ago to get the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers to display a Fishin’ with a Mission decal on their boats. His son, Luke, is autistic.
I’ve become more and more involved for the last seven to eight years, and I have to say that the program is growing steadily every year in many ways. I am very proud of the support we have gained.
One of the things we do is recognize an Autism Angler of April Award on the Elite Series. This is the third year for this award. It’s awarded to the angler who has the best combined record of Elite Series tournaments in April and who supports the cause. The winner will receive a beautiful trophy at the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
In addition to the trophy and professional recognition this award generates, the winner is allowed to select which autism charity will receive the money raised through the sales of Autism Awareness bracelets which are sold at the B.A.S.S. merchandise booth at the tournaments.
This program is managed by Larry and Debbie Friedman, and they do a fantastic job. To date they have sold 133 bracelets and raised a grand total of $1,600. That’s a lot of money that will go directly to a worthy cause.
On top of our Autism Angler program we have had tremendous support from B.A.S.S. management personnel. Our CEO, Bruce Akin, and our analyst and commentator, Dave Mercer, have each pledged 50 cents for every pound of bass weighed in by all of the Elite Series anglers during the month of April. That’s a lot of pounds of bass and a lot of money, guys.
On a personal level that helps engage fans and friends. I’ve pledged to donate $2 per pound for all the bass I weighed in this month, and I’ve asked others to match my donation. That weight amounted to almost 90 pounds. I rounded my donation up to $200. That’s been matched by at least three other individuals for a total of $800. That money will go to the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center near where I live here in Virginia.
A number of individual anglers have made cash contributions, too. Scott Canterbury, Jeff Gustafson, Seth Feider, Chris Groh and Chris Zaldain all did their part. And, so did one of our Marshals, Daniel Cook. Those donations added up to $210 and that money went to Eli Delany’s nonprofit charity, My Little Buddy’s Boat, that benefits multiple autism charities.
We also have a couple of items for sale on eBay that will help our cause. The sale price of these items will be donated to Autism Speaks, a national Autism charity.
The first is a pair of Autism Awareness shoes that I wore during the month of April when I was fishing the Elite tournaments. They are signed by the winner of the two April Elites, Brandon Cobb and Stetson Blaylock. The shoes are decorated with the Autism Puzzle design. And, if I do say so myself, they’re definitely eye catchers. You can bid on them at this link.
There’s also a handmade crankbait for sale that’s offered in a custom display case. It’s pretty darn fancy, too. You can bid on it at this link.
The final thing I want to mention is the support we’ve had from the BPT anglers. These are many of the same anglers that have supported the program for years, and they are continuing to do so. KVD has spearheaded our operation over there, and the support has been very much appreciated.
Autism is one of those things that can affect anyone. It’s no respecter of class, money or social standing. Please support the cause anyway you can.
Our hashtag is #AnglersForAutism. We would love to see that become more and more of a trending topic.