Fly fishing gear

MARTINO: Inspirational speaker to speak at the fishing clinic | Sports

There’s no better combination than kids and fishing. Besides developing a sense of self-reliance and learning about nature first-hand, it’s just plain fun. Children can take advantage of unstructured time to enjoy our natural resources.

For 37 years, local youth have had the opportunity to participate in the Jim “Moose” Carden Children’s Fishing Clinic and this year will be no different. The two-week event begins Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Kokomo High School. Participants are asked to use the west entrance of the school where they will go to the spacious school auditorium where it all starts.

The opening session begins with brief remarks from several Kokomo community leaders, followed by presentations on outdoor safety, kayak fishing, fly fishing, and a session with our area’s fisheries biologist. At the end of opening night, all of the children will take home their new rods and reels as well as tackle bags provided by the local Lions Club.

The following evenings, the children will participate in throwing exercises where they will learn to use the tools of the trade. There will also be presentations by many guests including conservation officers, fishing experts in our Wildcat Creek and area lakes. The courses cover literally every aspect of fishing, including almost every type of artificial and live bait, fish behavior, catch care, and ice fishing. Participants and their parents will also see firsthand the proper ways to clean fish. Nothing is left uncovered.

On July 28, the last night of the class party, the clinic will welcome musician and fisherman Tony Melendez. To say it catches the eye of passers-by, whether they’re on the water or doing anything for that matter, is an understatement. You see, he was born without arms.

Originally from Rivas, Nicaragua, Tony’s mother was prescribed the drug Thalidomide to combat morning sickness. She had no idea what effect this would have on her unborn son. When he was one year old, the Melendez family immigrated to the United States so Tony could have corrective surgery to fix his clubfoot so he could at least walk.

He grew up in a home where his mother protected him and took great care of him while his father encouraged and pushed him to do things on his own. Since he had no arms, he had to learn to do almost everything with his feet. At the age of 16, he discovered the joy of fishing, his favorite pastime to this day. He also learned to play the guitar, using only his toes.

As he learned to play the guitar, he also matured as a gifted singer and songwriter. In 1987, he was asked to play for Pope John Paul II. Since then, he has traveled to all 50 states and 45 countries, displaying his unique skills resulting from his perseverance and determination.

Tony has been a special guest on numerous national shows, including Good Morning America, Arsenio Hall, and numerous Jerry Lewis Telethons, to name a few. Her inspiring messages of hope, inspiration and faith are presented through her gift of music and personal life stories.

During his presentation, he details how important self-esteem is for children and how to deal with issues such as disability awareness and cultural awareness. He believes that one of the biggest problems with children today is bullying. A victim himself, he tells how he overcame this problem through changes in attitude, discipline and how fishing helped him. In fact, Tony moved his family from California and currently resides near Branson, Missouri.

“I wanted to move to be close to the many great lakes and fishing opportunities in the area,” he said.

Tony is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including special mentions from President Reagan, the State of California, the City of Los Angeles, and countless other civic and charitable organizations. He also received the first annual Inspirational Hero Award from the NFL Alumni Association at Super Bowl XXIII in Miami. “I never felt like a celebrity,” he says with a smile. “I just feel like me.”

Tony is still traveling the country sharing his love of hope and fishing and has no plans to stop. Its next location will be in Kokomo on July 28, and its presentation is open and free to the public.