Fishing for Charity
Aug. 29, 2015
What’s the one thing better than fishing, shorelunch and relaxing in the wilderness with top-notch service at your beckon call? Doing all of the above, and raising money for charity while you’re at it.
The Westman Dreams for Kids (WDFK) visit to Aikens Lake this June did just that, as a group of nearly 30 folks came to the lodge for a four-night stay that saw a portion of every person’s final bill donated to the Brandon, Manitoba-based charity.
“Our charity helps children and their families who are falling through the cracks,” said Ron Ball, who co-founded WDFK 26 years ago when he became aware of a sick child in the community who needed to go to Toronto for open-heart surgery. The system would only send one of the parents to Toronto for the surgery, so Ron and friends raised money so both parents could afford to go. “Could you imagine having your child undergo open-heart surgery and not being there because you can’t afford to go?”
Ron’s concern for that child––and the care and actions of others in his community––became the driving force for WDFK, which has since helped hundreds of kids and families in difficult situations.
For the past six years, Ron has organized a group to come to Aikens for a fund-raising fishing tournament. “Over the years I’ve taken dozens of people to Aikens and I always tell them before we go how incredible the service is at Aikens,” Ron said. “Every person I’ve taken has said to me after the trip, ‘Ron, we believed you when you said it before, but I just can’t believe how good they treat you here!’”
“One time Pit and Julie didn’t have the type of alcohol on-hand one of our guests was drinking, and they sent a plane out and got it,” Ron recalls. “I don’t know how they pick the staff so good. They’re all happy people and enjoy what they do.”
Of course, our pro-staff guides all want to have the winning angler in their boat for bragging rights. Ron recalls several years ago when a guide stuck his head, shoulder and arm into the water to land a fish that was getting away. “The guest was in the fishing tournament and that guide wanted to get that fish for the guest.”
This year, Kerry Lines (above) and Grant Hampton (below) won the tournament. Their four biggest walleyes on two consecutive mornings totaled 198 inches, for a 24.75-inch average.
The tournament was great, but the whole trip was about having fun and helping to raise some money.
At Aikens, we are proud to work with WDFK and are very happy that over the years we’ve been able to help raise over $60,000 for the cause. The foundation makes dreams come true for kids with illnesses or in tough situations; thanks to WDFK kids have had the chance to go to Disney World, meet their favorite professional athlete or meet celebrities ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger to The Backstreet Boys.
“We like doing it because it’s a local charity, it’s the homeland,” Pit said. “Plus it’s a cool way for people to come up and see the lodge, and we’ve gotten to meet a lot of great people from Brandon through this program.”
Ron stresses the local aspect of WDFK as well.
“We’re not national. This is a local charity that helps kids right in our community,” said Ron. “Sometimes when you give to charities you don’t know where the money’s going or what percentage goes to the people you’re trying to help. When you give to our charity, we’re nearly all volunteer. We’ve got one part-time lady in the office, and all the other money goes right to the kids.”
The impact of WDFK continues to grow––this year they raised $150,000 to help renovate the children’s ward of a local hospital––and their annual Aikens trip continues to grow. What started Year 1 as a group of a half dozen has swelled to an anticipated 36 people for 2016, with a wider variety than ever of men, women, kids, grandkids, etc.
We’re certainly excited to be involved and host this fun group again next year.
“Ron is very, very generous with his work, but he does it so quietly,” Pit said. “He doesn’t want to be the guy making announcements during the events, or be center stage or getting his picture taken. He does all of this work, and he just wants the charity to do well.”
“This is the most rewarding thing I’ve done,” said Ron. “I’ve owned three car dealerships, and I find the Dreams for Kids deal much more rewarding than starting a car dealership. Those were business decisions. This is something to give back to your community, and it’s nice to find an avenue to give back.”
Ron is so modest, about the only way to get him to pose for a picture is when he has a Master Angler walleye, as was the case above with a 29-inch walleye from a previous trip. Rene Fouillard, below, made the Century Club this June with the largest walleye being 27.5 inches.
Darrell Barr landed a Master Angler with this 41-inch trophy pike.