In the fifteenth year of the Mississippi River bass tournament benefiting St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Zumbro Valley Bassmaster chapter is getting used to miracles. Miracles like crossing the million-dollar mark two years ago, miracles like raising over $225,000 in one fishing event this year, and miracles like Liam Reinier, who battled cancer at the age of three with the help of the medical team at St. Jude in Memphis.

Liam is now 11 years old and a full two years beyond a five-year remission. Such success stories are rare, and precious. All too many kids fight the battle and do not win. But just like you can’t catch a fish without getting your line wet, you can’t beat cancer without getting in for the fight. That means medical care. In Liam’s case, it truly would not have happened without the hope and cutting-edge treatment that comes hand-in-hand with St. Jude Children’s Hospital’s state-of-the-art research.

Liam enjoys doing all the normal things that an 11-year-old boy does: playing in a tree fort at their country home outside of Des Moines, fishing with his family, and camping with the Boy Scouts. At age three, it didn’t look like Liam would make it to 11–it didn’t look like Liam would even make it to age four.

The Dick Hiley-St. Jude Bass Classic has been going strong and raising money for medical research for fifteen years.

Liam’s parents, Jeremy and Gina, went through a roller coaster with diagnosis and then misdiagnosis during those first few weeks. Eventually a dreaded diagnosis stuck: myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease that essentially kills the bone marrow. That meant his body would have no resistance to fight even the smallest of infections. “The doctors told us it was terminal and that it was not survivable,” shared Gina as she looked back on those dark days. “But in doing some research after the diagnosis we read that St. Jude was treating this form of cancer and offered a sliver of hope. And because of the generosity that we didn’t have to pay up front like other hospitals, we could go to Memphis and get the care for Liam that saved his life.”

They didn’t stay home, they took on the challenge. So, too, the fishermen of the Zumbro Valley Bassmasters stepped up on the Mississippi River out of Wabasha—again. Not only did anglers in this unique event pay a fee to compete in a tournament, but they also competed at raising money for St. Jude. “These are the greatest group of guys and gals—their hearts are so big,” shared Liam’s mother, Gina. “This is a great testament to their generosity and hard work.”

Once again, a familiar team topped the list for fundraising. Minnesotans Scott Bonnema and Rick Pelletier raised an impressive $17,160. Sixty-three of the 72-boat field raised additional funds, making the grand total an incredible $226,332. That accomplishment completely flew past last year’s record-breaking year of $190,000. In 15 years the small-town club has raised over $1.4 million. This year’s top five fundraisers include:

  1. Scott Bonnema and Rick Pelletier: $17,160
  2. David Mansell and Stan Miller: $9,200
  3. Eric Ronningen and Jim Johnson: $9,195
  4. Brian Harmon and Aaron Boos: $7,924
  5. Troy Barrett and John Schlee: $6,784
Winners Brent Serum of Durand, Wisconsin and Jesse Wolfe of Nelson, Wisconsin weighed the heaviest two-day basket and took home a first-place check of $6,000.

Of course, we can’t talk about a fishing tournament without kudos to the team with the heaviest basket of fish over two days. Zumbro Valley Bassmasters extended congratulations, kudos and a whopping $6,000 check to Wisconsinites Brent Serum (Durand) and Jesse Wolfe (Nelson). Complete results on numbers of fish and each days’ weights for the entire field will be available at www.stjudefishing.com.

The top three teams were as follows:

  • First place: Brent Serum and Jesse Wolfe
  • Second place: Jon Blood and Mark Myers
  • Third place: Jon Loewe and Dave Larson

“We meet a lot of great people at the different fundraisers that benefit St. Jude,” shared Julia Chapman, Senior Event Marketing Representative of the Minneapolis office for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “This is an especially wonderful group. They care so passionately about the kids of St. Jude and it shows in everything they have done for 15 years now.

For more information on the Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic go to www.stjudefishing.com or contact Corey Waller at cwallerbass1@hotmail.com. You can also “like” their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/313257308716970/.

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 K.J. Houtman/Dick Hiley/St. Jude Bass Classic

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