Big catch for fishing fundraiser

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By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario - For 24-year-old Jordan Godard, a local resident with special needs, fishing for the first time was all about beginner's luck.

Godard got hooked on the outdoor sport at the inaugural Fishing for Special Needs fundraising event at Gray's Creek Marina on Saturday, July 19.

Nineteen other participants joined him.

Thanks to the generosity of several fishing boat captains, each member of the group spent an hour on the open waters casting off and reeling in.

"He caught the biggest fish of the day," said event organizer and Include Program founder and operator Art Levert Jr.

Exceeding expectations, the event raised a few thousand dollars. These funds will go a long way towards a new special needs clubhouse for events and activities, organized by the club members themselves.

The second part of Levert Jr.'s vision is a respite centre named the Include Me Inn, for emergency, day, weekend or vacation relief for parents and guardians of children and adults with special needs.

Karen Murray, of Martintown, has been taking her 14-year-old son Cole for one-on-one care through the Include Program for years.

"Since my husband passed away, Art has helped in a major way," said Murray. "He gets Cole out there and involved in life."

A crowd of 90 swarmed to the marina for the unique fishing excursion, prizes, live entertainment, and BBQ food.

Levert Jr. noted that the event was made possible due to the support of a dozen major sponsors as well as multiple donors.

Ray Cote, owner of Rayco Team Sports, has been a pal of Levert Jr. for 20 years. For 15 of them, clients of the Include Program have visited his Cornwall store to hang out, organize, and sip hot chocolate.

Cote was glad to make a financial contribution, donate a ton of t-shirts at cost, and serve guests as he manned the grill.

"The clubhouse and respite centre have been a big dream for all of us," he said. "Thanks to this event and others like it, we're getting closer."

Cote, like many in attendance, described Levert Jr. as a saint.

"Art is special," he said. "We need more people like him."

For more information, call Art Levert Jr. at (613) 932-4784 or visit www.facebook.com/IncludeProgram.

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