Brookeland, Texas – If you happened to be at the Umphrey Pavilion on Sam Rayburn Reservoir last weekend, you might have thought you’d stumbled onto a secret Bassmaster Elite Series event. Mark Zona was there, along with a couple dozen Elite pros and other well-known folks in bass fishing, plus a crowd and lots of fishing stuff – it felt like an Elite.
Editor's note: See event photos.
But it was Brian Robison’s annual Reel ‘Em In Foundation Tournament, this time benefitting K9s4Cops, the only charity that provides police dogs for law enforcement.
If you're not a football fan, you may not know that native Texan Robison is a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, but more important, he is a diehard bass fisherman. So, of course he's going to have a bass tournament as a fund-raiser.
Saturday he hosted an open tournament, in which local hammers Cory Rambo and Rusty Clark beat more than 100 other boats with a 31.34-pound limit, including a 9.95 kicker that was also big fish of the tournament. All the fishermen who weighed in got food and freebies, and then it was auction time.
A ton of bass fishing and pro football stuff was on the block, along with the opportunity to bid on fishing with Elite pros and NFL players. The guy with the highest bid was – no surprise – Kevin VanDam, who was bought by running back Adrian Peterson for $10,000. Peterson's brother, Derrick, ended up fishing with KVD and was blown away to be fishing with the man he called “the Michael Jordan of fishing.”
But to Robison, all the dollars meant was that a charity he strongly believes in would benefit.
“My dad was a cop for 29 years in Houston,” he said. "My foundation met with 20 organizations, and in 15 minutes I knew K9s4Cops was something I wanted to be part of and give back to.
“I felt like cops were getting a bad name so I wanted to stick my neck out a little and try and shed light on who they really are. They're people who are out risking their lives for us every day. They spend time away from their families to keep our families safe. And K9s affect people and communities, regions and states -- they affect more people proactively."
The charity was started by Kristi Schiller, a Texas resident who saw a story about Harris County deputy Ted Dahlin's dog being killed in the line of duty. She wanted to find him a new partner. It ended up not being as easy as she thought, so she decided to start the foundation and recruited Dahlin to be on her board (she did get him a new dog). This year is K9s4Cops' sixth birthday, and it's already provided more than 140 dogs to officers in 31 states and Europe.
"People don't realize what these animals bring to the table," Dahlin said. "No machine's been built to do what these dogs do. It's hard to explain how important these animals are without seeing them in action."
Center patrol sergeant Chris Knowlton, whose current dog Elliott was funded through Robison and K9s4Cops, noted that police dogs are more approachable than police for people in some communities.
"With dogs, kids will approach police, and this gives them a chance to make their own decisions about us," Knowlton said.
Dahlin added: "We spend more time with these animals than our families. I can't say enough about Brian and him supporting us."