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Isabella Felten, of West Cape May, proudly displays her catch after a fruitful day of fishing.
By MADDY VITALE
Isabella Felten’s expression said it all when she got off of a fishing boat Sunday afternoon.
She smiled as she held not only a nice size flounder, but the first fish she had ever caught.
“I had so much fun. I caught seven fish. I never caught a fish before today,” the 19-year-old from West Cape May said.
While standing on a dock at the Ocean City Yacht Club, Isabella posed for some photos.
She and her mother, Libby Felten, were among 85 people, some of whom have physical, mental or learning disabilities or financial difficulties, for a fishing trip courtesy of the Ocean City Yacht Club and the Ocean City Marlin & Tuna Club.
Joined by her family, Christine Palladino, 42, center, of Worchester, Pa., enjoys the outing.
Now in its 28th year, the fishing event brings families together, gives children an opportunity to get out on the water and to do something that transcends abilities — physical or otherwise — organizers said.
Some of the families were out on a boat for the very first time. Altogether, more than 20 boats participated Sunday.
The organizations brought together for the outing included the Challenge League out of Bucks County, Pa., Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern New Jersey, the Ocean City school system and the Variety Club of Philadelphia.
Fishing boats were donated for the day from Ocean City, Longport and Margate. Bill McGinnity, a chef who is in charge of food at the yacht club, prepared the meals. The Ocean City Yacht Club Foundation chaired by Brad Jungels raised funds to purchase supplies, including T-shirts.
Several members of the Ocean City Marine Police, Fire Department, Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard assisted with making sure all went safely.
Brothers James and Andrew Baumgardener, both of Longport, are Big Brothers to Jayden Berardi, of Somers Point, left, and Rudy Cabral, center, of Linwood.
James Baumgardener, of Longport, and his brother, Andrew, serve as Big Brothers.
For the last couple of years James has been a Big Brother to Jayden Berardi, 12, of Somers Point. Andrew is a Big Brother to Rudy Cabral, 9, of Linwood.
As they got off one of the boats, the four laughed and joked.
“We didn’t catch anything, but they did,” James said, pointing to Jayden and Rudy.
“I caught a flounder,” Jayden said.
“I caught a flounder and I caught a crab too but it crawled back down into the water,” Rudy pointed out.
A police officer helps Rudy Cabral out of the boat.
James Baumgardener explained why he and his brother feel it is so important to be Big Brothers.
“We grew up with five siblings. It is just really important to help others,” James noted.
Andrew has been a big brother to Rudy for the past two years. They have been on camping and bowling trips and flew kites together, but never took a fishing trip together until Sunday.
The fishing trip means so much to so many families, organizers said.
Ocean City Yacht Club Commodore Carl Bastian summed it up.
“It is just good for the community and so rewarding to see how happy everyone is when they return from the trip,” he said.
Past Commodore Doug Walters, foreground, with Kathy Bastian and her husband, Commodore Carl Bastian, await the return of the boats.
Ocean City Yacht Club member Doug Walters, a past commodore who organized the land operations for the fishing trip, said it isn’t just a special day for the participants, but also the people who make the program possible.
“The kids have big smiles when they come off the boats. They are very happy and so are the parents,” Walters noted. “This is just a wonderful event for everybody.”
The fishing trip was canceled last year due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions. While this year’s event was half the size of ones in recent years, it was called a major success.
George Robinson, left, and Brian Logue work on the event together each year.
Brian Logue, a boat captain who lives in Ocean City, said he enjoys helping with the event.
“It’s awesome. It really feels like we are doing something great, especially after everything everyone went thought with the pandemic last year,” Logue said as he waited for the boats to come in. “There were a lot more fish caught this year than in other years.”
Christine Palladino, 42, of Worchester, Pa., was joined by her aunt, grandmother and other relatives to make it a truly special day.
She caught a flounder – 18 inches long – just big enough to be a keeper and put a smile on her face.
“I caught one,” Palladino said.
George Robinson, who lives in Florida and has a vacation home in Ocean City, has been in charge of running the water portion of the event for the last 20 years.
There is really nothing like this event, he explained.
“Fishing is one of those activities where it really doesn’t matter what someone’s capabilities are. It is not a sport where you need tremendous strength or skills. It just is something that brings people together,” Robinson said.
The day brought good fishing and beautiful weather.
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