Article by Jason Setnyk | Submitted Photo
Alexandria, Ontario – Island Park in Alexandria, Ontario, is set to host the fifth annual Fishing for Autism event on July 9, 2023, from 10 am to 3 pm. This free all-ages event is open to the public and aims to provide a fun-filled day of fishing while raising awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and offering support to the community.
Katy Cartier, the founder of Fishing for Autism, is a small-town country girl and a loving mother of two, Chase and Alivia. She has a deep passion for fishing, hunting, ATV’s, bonfires, and spending quality time with her family and friends. A pivotal moment in Katy’s life occurred when she took her autistic son Chase fishing, an experience that would forever change her perspective. During this outing, she discovered the therapeutic benefits of fishing for individuals on the autism spectrum. Motivated by this revelation, Katy decided to establish Fishing for Autism.
“My son was diagnosed with Autism 5 years ago, and fishing was my escape when things got tough because I was raising him and my newborn daughter alone. One day I decided to bring Chase fishing, fully expecting him to throw my rod in the water. But to my surprise, he sat with me all day, caught many fish, and loved every minute! Little did I know, fishing is a form of therapy for people on the spectrum, and I wanted other parents to experience that feeling, so that’s where the idea was born,” Katy Cartier reminisced.
“The first year, I planned a small event where I would teach people to fish during “Free Fishing Week.” I expected about 50 people, and an incredible 300 people showed up. That’s when I knew this was the beginning of something special. It’s been five years now, and it keeps growing and growing. It has officially branched out to Florida, and I’ve flown out there for two years in a row for the event,” Katy continued.
The event seeks to create an inclusive and supportive environment for participants and their families. Organizers have collaborated with local businesses and sponsors to ensure that all necessary equipment and supplies, including food, drinks, rods, tackle, and bait, are provided. Generous contributions from sponsors have also made it possible to offer giveaways and prizes throughout the event.
“The event is a fun-filled free day for families to enjoy fishing, fishing lessons, free lunch, activities, games, prizes, entertainment, a sensory room inside, water safety lessons, programs, therapies, and more are available for people on the spectrum,” Katy explained.
One of the primary goals of Fishing for Autism is to educate attendees about ASD and foster connections among people on the spectrum. By gathering individuals with diverse experiences, the event provides an opportunity for families to learn more about Autism and interact with others who share similar challenges and triumphs.
“It’s a day to make the people on the spectrum feel like superstars! There is no age limit, and it’s a day for other children to become educated and get to know people on the spectrum,” Katy stated.
Registration for the event is open, and interested participants are encouraged to sign up in advance. To support this cause, the organizers have adopted a donation-based model, allowing attendees to contribute as little or as much as they desire. This flexible approach ensures that financial constraints do not hinder anyone’s participation.
This year’s Fishing for Autism offers attendees various activities and attractions. In addition to fishing, participants can enjoy kayak safety lessons and activities, indulge in a complimentary lunch, engage in games, slide down blow-up slides, get their faces painted, visit a petting zoo, interact with therapy pets, and benefit from respite services.
Moreover, various organizations and businesses will be present to offer additional services, such as Akwesasne Child & Family Services, Akwesasne Mohawk Police Services, and H&L Non-Urgent Patient Transport’s ambulance tour. Other exciting offerings include ABA Therapy, Recreation Therapy, a quiet sensory room, and lessons on aquatic invertebrates with a biologist from Florida.
“We have donation jars throughout the event, and that money is to pick a special family every year and build them a FULL sensory room in their house. Last year we re-did the flooring, the door frame, the lights, the electrical plugs (all done by certified professionals), painted, decorated, and added sensory equipment and sensory toys to fill the room for the special winner,” Katy recalled.
Furthermore, local sponsors Peavy Mart and “Swamp Donkey Baits” have generously contributed to the event, providing free bait giveaways and ensuring that participants have access to quality fishing supplies. Attendees will also have the chance to enjoy motorcycle rides, capture memories in a photo booth, savor cotton candy and popcorn treats, and engage in surprise activities presented by Big Country Kustoms.
The Fishing for Autism event owes its success to the community’s unwavering support. Now in its fifth year, the event has become a cherished tradition, enriching the lives of individuals with ASD and their families. The organizers express their heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed and encourage everyone to continue supporting this cause, fostering inclusivity, and spreading awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Everything about the event makes me happy, but I love seeing the kids grow over the years. A few children have been coming to the event since year one, and it makes me so happy seeing them come back,” Katy concluded.
To register for the Fishing for Autism event or to learn more about the cause, visit their website.