Outdoor adventure day for people with disabilities reels in the smiles

KANSAS CITY Mo -- The folks helping Darla Hart fish on Wednesday (May 18) failed to notice that she was turning the handle on her fishing pole’s spinning reel and that the rod was bowed and the line quivering. Their attention had wandered to other anglers at an outdoor adventure day for people with disabilities. But Hart kept cranking.

Then somebody noticed she had a fish on, her second of the day. Soon a largemouth bass about six inches long was flopping in the air as she lifted her rod high. Someone held the fish close so she could see it, photos were snapped and then the fish was released back into the water at the Hazel Hill Lake Conservation Area north of Warrensburg.

A few moments later, Hart couldn’t resist a happy shout to friends who reside with her at the Ridge Crest Nursing Center in Warrensburg.

“I did it, I did it,” she said. “I caught a fish.”

Simple success brought joy at the third annual outdoor adventure day at Hazel Hill for those with physical or mental challenges. More than 30 participants from Johnson County fished or shot at targets with archery equipment and pellet rifles.

The event was co-sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Warrensburg Parks and Recreation Department and West-Central Independent Living Solutions. In addition, the Stealth Gobblers, a local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, donated $250 for the event and member volunteers helped participants shoot and fish.

“It’s a neat deal, you get to see the enjoyment on their faces when they catch a fish,” said David McCannon of Warrensburg, Stealth Gobblers chapter chairman.

MDC provided equipment for the field day and mentored anglers and target shooters.

“We really appreciate it and they have a lot of fun,” said Laylan Hecker, volunteer and outreach coordinator for West-Central Independent Living Solutions. “Our consumers don’t get to get outside a lot. This is really a treat when they get to get outside and do these things.”

Mark Ridge, who resides at Crest Ridge, said he used to fish at Hazel Hill often and catch big channel catfish until medical issues made getting out more challenging. He gave an old favorite spot by big rocks a try.

“Today, all the little panfish were eating up my bait,” Ridge said. “But I appreciate the chance.”