To some, fishing is a hobby. But to William “Big Will” Dunn, it’s a passion that has led him to changing the lives of thousands of children.
It all began with one child: Cameron Delong. When the two of them met, the then 8-year-old was struggling with his home life, and it was showing.
“I saw this young boy that was frustrated and showed anger,” William said. “[I] didn’t know why until I found out his father was not in his life.”
Growing up, William had a “rough upbringing in Miami,” seeking peace and solace in fishing. Hopeful that it could have the same effect on Cameron, he asked Cameron’s mom if he could take her son out fishing every once in a while. They ended up doing so several times a week.
“He started doing better in school, showing more respect to his mom, and just becoming more of a man of the household because his dad was still not in his life,” William said.
Inspired by the positive impact their fishing trips made on Cameron, he founded Take a Kid Fishing, an organization that utilizes fishing as a means to teach children “life skills and responsibility inside and outside of the classroom.” He started by taking 20 to 25 foster kids on fishing charters out in Clearwater, Florida, on Saturdays.
“We take them out, show them a good day, and spend time with them and everything,” he said. “Just to get out of the boat, you see the difference in them.”
For eight years, William would take these kids out on the water using money out of his own pocket. Luckily, three years ago, Take a Kid Fishing became an official nonprofit, and they’ve been gratefully receiving financial support to make even greater impacts ever since.
“Once they grasp the concept of fishing it enables them to learn patience, teamwork, and how to relax and not to make harsh and rash decisions,” their website says. “Fishing also teaches them to support each other whether they win or lose (catch a fish or not).”
In the 11 years that William has taken children fishing, one very important person has stuck around. At 19 years old, Cameron still loves going on their adventures, especially now that he considers William to be a father figure.
“I knew how special it was when my dad took me. Just being out on the water is like being out on another world,” William said. “I can’t explain it.”
Don’t forget to share William’s story with a friend to inspire more acts of kindness.
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