Final trip of Fish for Life season holds special surprise for children with special needs

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By Andrea Papagianis

As former-NFL quarterback Jim Everett led more than 30 special needs children in a Fish for Life dance on Saturday, October 19, a nautical creature from legends and fairytales made her way through the water.

It was the last trip of the season for the organization, which gives children and teens with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and physical disabilities the opportunity to be out on the water, wrangling in fish with the best in the business. Jim Holden began Fish for Life in 2009 after sharing his lifelong fishing passion on a day trip with a friend’s disabled son.

“I feel like God came out of the clouds, grabbed me by the neck and said, ‘This is your calling,’” Holden said. “Ultimately, Fish for Life is about honoring God by caring for others.”

Over the last four years, Holden has taken 16 trips with hundreds of special needs children and thousands of volunteers, but the surprise that awaited this group was the first of its kind. One by one, the children spotted Catalina the Mermaid, played by Virginia Hankins, of Sheroes Entertainment, and a wave of excitement eclipsed the fishing vessel.

Holden said, it was all he had hoped for and more.

For more information on Fish for Life, visit, or email Holden at


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