By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
“We are all fortunate to play a small part in the joy we see in their faces when they get a bite on their line and see the fish they catch. My wife, Sharon, and I hosted it last year on our anniversary and we would not have had it any other way. It was a perfect day.”
— Rotarian Tony Paternostro
The Rotary Club of Picayune held its 15th Annual Fishing Rodeo for special needs students at the home of Sharon and Tony Paternostro in McNeill. The 100 plus acre property boasts a large pond stocked with fish that were just waiting to latch onto bait tossed into it with cane poles.
Three busloads of Picayune Special Education students unloaded and rushed to obtain poles and bait to begin the event they look forward to each year. Some of them had torn months off of the classroom calendar in hopes they could return sooner, some teachers said.
Rotarian Suzan Wilson, said, “We have been doing this for 15 years for the special education students at Picayune schools. Our Picayune Rotary Club treats them to hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies and drinks. Rotarians bait the hooks for them, untangle fishing lines, hopefully take fish off of the hooks.”
The weather was beautiful and fish were eager to be caught, much to the delight of the fishing students. Some students caught as many as four that morning, but most caught at least one. The buses left with fish in buckets to be divided at the school.
“Many of these students do not get to fish except through this Rotary Fishing Rodeo,” said Paternostro. “We are all fortunate to play a small part in the joy we see in their faces when they get a bite on their line and see the fish they catch. My wife, Sharon, and I hosted it last year on our anniversary and we would not have had it any other way. It was a perfect day.”
In addition to Rotarians, Police Chief Bryan Dawsey, Dep. Chief Chad Dorn, Capt. Theresa Milar along with Assistant to the Chief of Police Jeremy Magri were on hand to give the students deputy badge stickers and water bottles.
“This is the only time a lot of these children ever get to fish. The teachers say they look forward to this all year long. They leave there on cloud nine. We all leave there very uplifted because we know that we have done something to help them create a memorable experience. The parents that come seem to really enjoy it also,” said Wilson.
Rotary President Jim Luke summed up the day with, “Our Rotary motto is ‘Service above self;’ we are very blessed to have been able to be a small part in these students’ day and to have shared in their excitement, as they experienced the outdoors and joys of fishing.”