June 30, 2015 will be almost 24 years since I, along with the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Washington State BASS Federation, held the very first C.A.S.T. for Kids event. It will also mark the day that I retire as Executive Director.
It has been a long and wonderful ride. I have met many wonderful and caring people that have given so much of themselves in helping make this organization a huge success. I have also been fortunate to have very dedicated and hardworking employees over the years that have done a tremendous job making sure this program ran smoothly and stayed on track.
I especially want to thank Art Pasley, who as National Event Director, has done so much to help me, C.A.S.T., and all of the Event Coordinators stay on track and continue to produce quality events that we are all very proud of. Art and the rest of the staff aren't planning on going anywhere.
The biggest joy of my job, and one of the biggest of my life, has been the kids. Working with wounded military personnel over the last few years has also been very rewarding, and an honor, but the kids will always be the closest to my heart. That's the reason I started C.A.S.T. and the reason that I have put in all of the time and effort over the years.
You've heard the phrase "labor of love". Well, this wasn't really a labor, but it certainly was love. What I, and C.A.S.T., have done for these kids is nothing compared to what they have given to me. They have given me a sense of worth that I never had before. They have given me a sense of self and caused me to continually reassess myself. They have taught me to care, to love, and to understand at a level that I had never known. They helped me to grow to be a better and more compassionate person to my family and to those around me. They gave me so much compared to the little that I gave them. I will miss all of these special kids so much.
I will also miss all of the Event Coordinators and the volunteers. These are the folks that make C.A.S.T. work. Their caring, hard work, dedication, and devotion to these kids and their families are the true backbone of this organization. I have made many lifelong friends within this group and have hundreds of wonderful memories. Some of my favorite memories are of seeing the tears in the eyes of a crusty old bass fisherman after a young special needs child, that he has just taken fishing, gives him a big hug and tells him that this is the best day of his or her life. That's why they do it and why I love them.
I do plan on hanging around a little bit and volunteering at local events or if they are in a bind, heading to an event out of state. But mostly I plan on spending time with my grandkids, traveling, and fishing. I have not done nearly enough of any of those things recently and would like to catch up. Who knows, maybe I will show up at one of your events with my boat and take one of the kids fishing. That would be very cool.
Until then............Thank you all for being Special People That Help Special Kids Catch A Special Thrill!