May 30, 2012 - Atlas Twp.-The fish were biting this past Saturday as local special needs kids and thier families readied thier tackle boxes for the seventh annual Hickory Pond Fishing Derby and Family Fun Day. Andi Trubiano, Goodrich senior and creater of the event, was pleased with this year's turnout.
From left, Andi Trubiano assists Collin Shape with a bluegill he caught. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
With more than 25 kids in attendance, Trubiano is happy to provide each child with a day specifically for them.
"This year was very successful," she said. "We had quite a few returning families and some new families to the derby with several telling us how grateful they were for the derby being in place."
Trubiano credits her older brother Jake for the inspiration to start the event when she was only 10-years-old.
"My brother has autism spectrum disorder and loves to fish, so I wanted to make a day for kids like him to have fun and feel like they belong," she said. "I couldn't think of any better way than to get everyone together for a fishing derby."
Trubiano said organizers of the event have no rules about which kids can attend the event.
"It was really created not for a specific disorder, but more for special needs kids in general," she said.
Since last year, the event has included not only fishing, but several other free attractions including carnival games, a bounce house, and raffles.
Organizing the event year after year isn't easy, said Trubiano.
"It took a lot of time the first few years to get our event noticed by local and national sponsors but after that we just kept gaining donations and annual sponsors. The planning usually starts in January."
Yet Trubiano's hard work is not going unnoticed.
Trubiano was recently presented with an engraved bronze medallion to recognize her selection as a distinguished finalist in the 2012 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program for her involvment with the fishing derby.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, represent the United States' largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service.
But what really keeps Trubiano motivated to keep holding the event each year is the joy that the derby brings to the children.
"My favorite part is seeing how little things like winning a prize or making a new friend just lights up a kid's whole day. It's really a great thing to see someone truly happy with something so little."