Catching smiles: Knights of Columbus, Order of Alhambra host fishing derby for disabled

The Knights of Columbus and the Order of Alhambra hosted the 31st annual Life Handicap Outdoors Fishing Derby at Brandenburg Park in New Baltimore on June 15. The event is an opportunity for people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities and their caregivers to enjoy a day out in the sun, catching fish and meeting friends. (Photos by Daniel Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

Catholic organization geared towards aiding the disabled community provides a day of fun and fellowship at Lake St. Clair

NEW BALTIMORE ─ Hundreds gathered at Brandenburg Park in New Baltimore on June 15 for the 31st annual Life Handicap Outdoors Fishing Derby, in support of the intellectually and developmentally disabled.

Anglers of all ages gathered at the event, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Blessed Solanus Casey Council No. 3797 in St. Clair Shores and the Order of Alhambra Galicia Caravan No. 77.

The Order of Alhambra is an international Catholic charitable organization with the specific mission of aiding the intellectually and developmentally disabled community, and the annual fishing derby is the local caravan’s primary outing for the year.

Members of the Knights of Columbus Blessed Solanus Casey Council No. 3797 in St. Clair Shores were on hand to assist the fishers with casting, untangling lines and making sure everyone was having a good time.
Members of the Knights of Columbus Blessed Solanus Casey Council No. 3797 in St. Clair Shores were on hand to assist the fishers with casting, untangling lines and making sure everyone was having a good time.

“Today is about supporting mentally challenged children and adults with special needs,” Louis Caloia, a member of the Knights of Columbus Blessed Solanus Casey Council and a past grand commander of the Alhambra Galicia Caravan, told Detroit Catholic. “We provide fishing equipment and a whole day out in the park in the sun. We provide the fishing poles, breakfast, lunch, racquets for tennis and pickleball; it’s just a fun day for the kids and their caregivers.”

Children and adults of the intellectually and developmentally disabled community arrived at the park at 9 a.m. with their parents and caregivers. Most of the participants are adults who live in group homes in the area with fellow people with intellectual and developmental disabilities under the charge of a caregiver after their parents have passed away or have become unable to care for their children without further assistance.

The fishing derby is a chance for members of the disabled community—and their caregivers—to get out and enjoy the sun and fellowship.

Caloia said his favorite part of the day was seeing all the smiles on the participants faces, whether they caught a fish or not.
Caloia said his favorite part of the day was seeing all the smiles on the participants faces, whether they caught a fish or not.

“Many of the children and adults who live in group homes don’t get out and enjoy the things that possibly you and I enjoyed when we were kids, going camping and fishing with mom and dad, going out to a baseball game because they live in a group home where it’s hard to go out,” Caloia said. “What we try to do is have a fun day for them where they can sit back and get some normalcy in their life, do things other kids can do; go fishing, go swimming, go to the park.”

Members of the Knights of Columbus and the Order of Alhambra were on hand to offer fishing expertise, walking the 300-foot pier that stretched out into Lake St. Clair, untangling fishing lines and making sure the event went off smoothly. If there weren’t any fish being caught, there were plenty of captured smiles.

The Galicia Caravan No. 77, based in the Detroit area, of the Order of Alhambra is a Catholic group with the specific charism of supporting the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Founded in 1904, our members are a fraternal family bonded thru Catholic faith, Christian values and a desire to assist the less fortunate.
The Galicia Caravan No. 77, based in the Detroit area, of the Order of Alhambra is a Catholic group with the specific charism of supporting the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Founded in 1904, our members are a fraternal family bonded thru Catholic faith, Christian values and a desire to assist the less fortunate.

“Days like today fit with the mission of Knights of Columbus, a worldwide organization with over 2 million members and its core mission of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism,” said Knights of Columbus Solanus Casey Council member Fred Kuplicki. “And with a day like today, working with the Order of Alhambra, whose mission is specifically to assist the mentally challenged.”

Shannon McCalley of Fraser has been going to the derby for at least five years, and catching up with friends at a day by the lake is an event she looks forward to all year long.

“I like to come out and see all my friends, especially with my dad-friend,” McCalley said in reference to her caregiver. “It’s very, very, very important to come out there. Last year, I got a very big fish, the largest fish of the day. (A small pike, according to observers). I used to fish at my grandpa’s house, and now I get to be out on the lake today.”

Shannon McCalley of Fraser (right) greets a friend at the fishing derby. McCalley remembers going fishing with her grandpa and looks forward to the annual event as an opportunity to meet up with friends for a day of fishing.
Shannon McCalley of Fraser (right) greets a friend at the fishing derby. McCalley remembers going fishing with her grandpa and looks forward to the annual event as an opportunity to meet up with friends for a day of fishing.

The day ended with prizes awarded for the biggest catch, but the day was more about fellowship and fun and less about fishing.

“Seeing the kid catch a fish is my favorite part of the day,” Caloia said. “If they catch a two-inch fish, a three-inch fish, it doesn’t matter. They could catch this scrawny thing that I’d be embarrassed if someone saw me catch, but they jump up and down and yell like they caught Moby Dick. Just the excitement on their faces. That’s what makes days like today a win.”

The annual fishing derby is a chance for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities -- along with their caregivers -- to enjoy a day of free fishing, food and fellowship, something members of the disabled community don't often get to enjoy.
The annual fishing derby is a chance for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities -- along with their caregivers -- to enjoy a day of free fishing, food and fellowship, something members of the disabled community don't often get to enjoy.


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