By Kara Blomquist
Fishing was more than just casting a line into a pool of fish at the Heart of Texas Fairground on Saturday.
The 26th Annual Fishing Event for Very Special People took place with the help of organizations from across the Waco community. It meant a day of fun for the intellectually and developmentally disabled of all ages.
About 100 people crowded around a large tank on the Heart of Texas Fairgrounds with the hopes of catching a fish.
Those not around the tank could be seen playing carnival games or dancing in the front of the Extraco Creative Arts and Exhibits Building.
In the back of the room, a large tank filled with fish captured the attention of many.
Participants had the chance to fish and take their catches home with them, said Columbia, Mo., senior Brian Kelly, Kappa Omega Tau’s fall service chair. Kappa Omega Tau helped in plan the event.
Texas Parks and Wildlife provided the tank and about 2,000 trout.
At the end of the event, all of the remaining fish were returned to Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Booths of carnival-style games were set up along the walls of the building.
Kappa Omega Tau, encouraged the Panhellenic sororities to participate, said Fredericksburg senior Ethan Beall, Kappa Omega Tau’s spring service chair.
Many sororities set up booths of carnival-style games along the walls of the building.
This year’s participating sororities included Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Delta Pi, Pi Beta Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Zeta Tau Alpha, Kappa Kappa Gamma and Chi Omega.
Chi Omega has a face-painting booth every year.
Houston freshman and Chi Omega pledge Maddie Koogler said she had a great time volunteering.
“It’s just so much fun to see the smiles on their faces,” she said.
Beyond the booths, Baylor students volunteered as escorts for the participants.
Each volunteer was paired with a guest for the entire event.
They helped guide their partner to the different activities and made sure they were safe during the event. The guides were not exclusively Baylor students.
Many escorts also danced with their partners on the dance floor.
Leo Gaines, supervisor of the Day Habilitation Facility, said the next two weeks at work after the event were commonly full of discussion about how the participants danced with Baylor students.
The Day Habilitation Facility in Waco is part of the Heart of Texas Region Mental Health Mental Retardation Center.
“They get to dance with the good-looking guys and girls at Baylor,” he said. “It’s a big draw.”
Complete with flashing lights and a DJ, the dance floor was always filled.
Baylor’s Kappa Omega Tau worked with the Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center to organize the event.
“We basically put it on to have fun with people with special needs and let them just have a day for them,” Kelly said.
The event is a tradition for Kappa Omega Tau, Kelly said.
“We just see it as a great way to give back to the community, especially with the mental needs community in Waco,” Kelly said. “It’s just a day for them to have fun and just have a good time.”
Gaines said the event depends on the participation of companies in the community.
He said he was impressed by how many companies donated to the event, including Red Men Bingo, the Optimist Club of Waco and Cici’s Pizza.
“It’s an amazing combination of disparate companies around the Waco area,” Gaines said. “All they get is a hearty thank you for the most part.”
Even when organizations change hands, they usually continue to donate, he said.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, people get on board,” Gaines said. He said the goal of the event has remained the same throughout the years.
“It’s an excuse to get out of the house and do something a lot of folks with disabilities might not get to do,” he said. Gaines said he was pleased with the turnout at the event.
“I’m at my happiest when the building’s full, the DJ’s cranking it out and everyone’s happy and having a good time,” he said.