What do bass fishing, sporting clays, an oyster feed, a craft beer tasting, and an Oscar-night selfie of Ellen DeGeneres et al have in common? They are all ways to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to make a difference while having fun.

Out of Wabasha Harbor on the Mississippi River on May 3 through 4, anglers will fish for a cause. The months and weeks leading up to the two-day tournament are filled with fundraising side events like the March 29 Oyster Feed in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, the craft beer tasting and auction fundraiser in Rochester, Minnesota on April 11, and the South St. Paul Sporting Clays event on April 13. Check their website and Facebook page for full details. The goal for this year is to raise $245,000, which might be a stretch, but the fact that this group has increased their donations every year means the target is realistic.

This spring’s tournament marks the 16th year the Dick Hiley Bass Classic has benefited St. Jude Children’s Research. All in, outdoorsmen and women—and their families and friends—have raised more than $1.5 million over the years.

Everyone loves St. Jude Children’s Research, including Ellen DeGeneres and Samsung, as we heard in the news last week. “Can we say Ellen DeGENEROUS! Oscar selfie that created buzz all over the social media world actually raises money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” shared Samantha Scheving, event marketing representative for St. Jude, on the fishing group’s Facebook page. In recognition of the image’s 3 million retweets, Samsung donated $1.5 million each to two of DeGeneres’ charities of choice—one of which was St. Jude Children’s Research. In our own ways, anglers and outdoor lovers can be generous, too.

Teams sign up to fish in the tournament, and a portion of the proceeds from the tourney benefit St. Jude, of course. But more importantly, each team raises additional funds on their own throughout the months leading up to the tournament. “Many of the anglers have side events or personally seek fundraising through their family and friends,” said Scheving. Some of the anglers get very creative on their side events, too. From pancake breakfasts to gun raffles, these guys and gals pull out all the stops to raise funds.

“This is so much more than a fishing tournament,” said Corey Waller of Hampton, Minnesota. As top fundraisers, Waller and fishing partner Chris Winchester were treated to a VIP tour of the medical center in Memphis a few years ago. They were able to see the fruit of their hard labor in the faces of the kids battling cancer or other catastrophic diseases and the families desperate to help. “This is my 15th year; I’ve been involved in all but the first year. Seeing what we do and how it provides for the families at the clinic in Memphis, it’s a life-changing event. It will melt you right where you stand.”

Waller and Winchester have hosted various side events in past years. This year they are changing it up with a sporting clays event at the South St. Paul Rod and Gun Club. “I think the clays event will be really great this year,” Waller continued. “We’ve seen a lot of interest so far. We’re hoping for at least 100 shooters but the club is big and we can handle more than twice that size if there’s interest. Let’s hope there is.”

Let’s also hope that the weather cooperates and Old Man Winter loosens his death grip on Minnesota and allows the warm breezes of spring to melt the snow and ice away. “We sure hope we don’t have to delay the tournament due to weather conditions,” added Scheving.

There is a portion of the entry fee that is funneled back to the tournament purse, which can be as high as $7,500 for the winners if they raise at least $1,500. The teams that raise that level or higher are given a payout bonus if they finish in the top 20 percent of the field. Without the bonus payout, first place is guaranteed at $5,000. If you are a bass angler and have a partner ready to fish for a cause, sign up for a spot in the tournament.

Or pick a team to support at www.stjudefishing.com. Ellen DeGeneres and Samsung raised a lot of money in a short period of time. I’m equally proud of the million-and-a-half that fishermen from Minnesota and Wisconsin (and surrounding states) have raised through this amazing little bass tournament.

K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 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.

Image courtesy St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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