If you are an angler and Bill W. is your good friend, read on.

Over 200 residences across the United States and over 1,100 around the world fall under the umbrella of Teen Challenge, a successful faith-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation program transforming lives of all ages, not just teens. At least one of those programs, the Minnesota Teen Challenge (MnTC), is using fishing to make a difference.

“Fishing is a fundraiser for us but it is more than that,” shared Jim Kalkofen, director of the annual Fishing Challenge at Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minnesota. “It is a way for anglers to help people free themselves from drug and alcohol addictions.” The event, sponsored by the Central Minnesota chapter of MnTC, enjoys legendary Hall of Fame angler and media mogul Al Lindner as its host.

“I’ve seen the lives that Teen Challenges changes, the impact that it has had on society and communities as a whole,” shared Al Lindner. “It is Biblically based, it changes lives, it impacts people in a positive way. Their success ratio is off the charts. Teen Challenge works.”

The next event’s date, at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake, is Saturday, June 1, 2013. Some of the best fishermen in the state will give their time to be there. Folks like Al’s brother Ron Lindner as well as world-record angler and Frabill pro Jeff Kolodzinski, Rapala pro Mark Fisher, Ranger pro Scott Bonnema, and guide Gary Lake to name just a few. The honorary tournament director will be host of the fishing television show Lake Commandos, Steve Pennaz. “This allows you to fish for a greater cause,” added Pennaz.

Sam Anderson, director of MnTC-Brainerd with last year’s students working the Minnesota Teen Fishing Challenge.

Many of the students in the program work the tournament that day. They mix and mingle in the various jobs of boat inspection and weighing of fish. The guys going through the addiction battle often share their stories.

Robert was there last year. “It’s not just about living sober,” shared Robert in his blue logo’d Teen Challenge t-shirt. “It’s about living holy, living for Christ, bringing the Bible to life for me.”

Sam Anderson is the director of the Central MnTC program out of Brainerd. “Our fishing event builds a great network in the fishing industry,” shared Anderson. “The anglers get to meet the students they are helping in the program and the students in the program see that they can have fun while being sober and clean; to enjoy life and enjoy the great outdoors.”

It helps them stay on track.

For example, a Wilder Research study (pdf) of 154 former clients who graduated the Minnesota Teen Challenge program between 2007 and 2009, found:

  • 74 percent of adult program graduates reported no use in the previous six months
  • 58 percent had attended school since graduating
  • 77 percent were either working 30-plus hours a week or were a full-time student
  • 80 percent rated the overall quality of MnTC as “outstanding” or “very good”
Kolt and T.J. Ringer of Lake Minnetonka will be one of the teams competing on the first of June. Each team commits to raising at least $500 additional in donations.

How cool that fishing families have a way to help those battling drug and alcohol addictions. If you are a fishing family that wants to do something, here’s how you can lend a hand:

  • Make a donation to a team that is fishing the tournament. I’ve picked Kolt and T.J. Ringer, representing my home waters of Lake Minnetonka. Or, you can pick any team on the list. Each team has set a fundraising goal. You can see how much further they have to go to reach it. You can see all the teams you can donate to here.
  • Another option is to sign up and fish in the tournament yourself. Space is available and there is still time to register. The entry fee is $100. Each team is encouraged to secure at least $500 in additional donations. Gull Lake is a spectacular fishery and there are a ton of prizes in a number of categories including walleye, bass, pike, panfish, or the popular “mix bag” category. Plus, some of the fun is competing against some of the best anglers in the state of Minnesota.

Any donation in any amount is welcome. Send an extra $5, $10, or $25 to any team fishing the event.

There are some things in life that just make sense, a fisherman tossing in what they would spend on a new crank bait or two to help a few others on the road to clean, sober living is the least we can do. I’m in.

Watch a video on the 2013 Fishing Challenge for Minnesota Teen Challenge below.

Minnesota Fishing Challenge 2013 from Minnesota Teen Challenge on Vimeo.

K.J. Houtman is author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for 8-12 year olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.

Images courtesy MnTC

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