Full of energy and smiles, you would never have known that 13-year-old Chase Huelsey is sick, except for his missing hair. As he bounced from one professional bass fishing angler to another, collecting autographs on his T-shirt, he explained that he likes to go fishing at Bear Creek. “It’s a couple hours from here,” Huelsey said, adding that “fishing can be really neat.”
Clearly the 17 professional anglers who visited Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham today feel the same. They are in town to compete as part of a 55-angler field in the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro at Lake Guntersville, Feb. 21-23, with weigh-ins at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.
“I told my wife today that seeing the children puts my week in perspective,” said Coby Carden of Shelby, Ala. Carden qualified for the Classic by winning the Southern Division of the B.A.S.S. Nation. “It really doesn’t matter now how this week shakes out.”
The anglers spent time with the children, painting wooden boats and fish provided by the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. They also signed autographs and demonstrated how to cast using child-size fishing reels. Prior to the crafts and activities, the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation presented a check to Children’s of Alabama for more than $160,000. The money was raised over the past six years through the Fishin’ for a Cure program and will go to the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“It’s really through the generosity of the Alabama nation of anglers that we’ve been able to raise money for pediatric cancer,” said Bruce Sargent, a member of the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation.
“I get a lot of enjoyment from doing things like this,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen of Ohio. “I’ve got two little ones, and I can’t imagine what (these parents) are going through. So many times we think things are tough, and this puts it in perspective.”
Elite Series pro Hank Cherry of North Carolina also mentioned his two children when saying the experience meant a lot to him today. “I’m glad to see the kids in high spirits,” he said. “Anything I can do to put a smile on their faces means the world to me.”
Elite Series pro Randy Howell knows firsthand how much Children’s of Alabama means to the people of his home state as his own son was treated there for asthma when he was younger. “It means a lot to come to any Children’s hospital, but Birmingham is a special place to my heart,” the Springville, Ala., resident said. “They just take good care of you. Everyone in this hospital goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
“It’s great to give back to the community,” said Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk of Idaho. “It’s humbling and takes a little pressure off the Classic (competition).
A 332-bed hospital, Children’s of Alabama is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. Children’s is the only hospital in the state dedicated to the treatment of children. More information is available at www.childrensal.org.
The GEICO Bassmaster Classic will officially begin Friday, Feb. 21, with the Classic competitors taking off from City Harbor at Lake Guntersville at 7 a.m. CT. The public may attend the takeoff, free of charge, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the same time and location. The weigh-ins are also free of charge and doors will open at 3 p.m. CT at the BJCC. The Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods will also take place Feb. 21-23 at the convention complex. For more information, visit Bassmaster.com.
Image courtesy Helen Northcutt/Bassmaster