Fishing is known to be great therapy for people with autism and as a mother of a 2 year princess and beautiful 4 year old autistic boy who absolutely loves fishing, Katy Cartier has seen it first hand. "I know and more importantly FEEL the joy it brings to my son. The day I handed that boy a fishing rod was a life changing moment for the both of us and my goal is to share the feeling and raise awareness for ASD through my Fishing For Autism events. "
On July 7th, 2019, the first annual Fishing For Autism event was held at Island Park in Alexandria, Ontario. Founder Katy Cartier and her amazing team of volunteers created a fun-filled day of fishing and boat rides where all food, drinks, rods, tackle, and bait were supplied along with giveaways and prizes courtesy of local sponsors to help raise awareness for ASD. Over 300 people who attended the event and it was an absolute success.
We are currently organizing our second annual Fishing For Autism day with hopes to make this event even bigger and better than the first! Check in for the the official date soon!
Our Fishing For Autism events run on the support from the community and we need all the help we can get to make this event bigger and more special every year! Any donation is welcome through our GoFundMe page below. Thank you for your kindness,, we couldn't do it without all of your support!
The famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht through his epic play 'The Good Person Of Szechuan' beautifully underlines the important message of being a good human being. And above that, supporting other good people around us in their good deeds before they become hopeless and stop doing good deeds altogether. The play portrays how important it is to look beyond oneself and towards the misery of others. To not lose hope, enthusiasm and kneel down in front of any misery that life throws at you. Instead, it teaches us to stand and face it in a way so that it becomes a worthy example for others.
And this is what a strong lady called Katy Cartier with some superhuman inner strength has been trying to do for the last few months. We were fortunate enough to see her post on Instagram which had a pic with 'Fishing For Autism' written on it. While it piqued our interest and raised a few eyebrows (in a good way, of course) within our staff regarding the touchy topic, we straight away had to read more about her post. And what we saw within the caption forced us to bring forward the remarkable job this young lady is doing.
While most of us are just satisfied by catching more and more fishes or finally being able to buy our favorite rod and reel, Katy dared to be different. We were happy to get a hold of her and she kindly gave us her time.
Question 1: Let us start with the question that we've been dying to ask ever since we read your post on Instagram. And we are pretty sure people who read the title must be wanting to ask this too. Why the name 'Fishing For Autism'?
I chose the name fishing for Autism because I wanted to raise awareness for Autism through fishing. Autism is becoming more and more common and I know that people in small towns normally love fishing so I thought if I put the two together, it would spark some interest..
Question 2: With curiosity out of the way, we can now begin formal introductions. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your family.
My name is Katy Cartier and I am very much a family person. I am really close to my parents and my siblings. I also have some really amazing best friends who I have been friends with pretty much my entire life. So I knew that when I did decide to have children, that they would be loved beyond words. I had Chase on December 28th, 2015 and I had Alivia on July 12th, 2017. I have been raising them alone for the most part of their lives. Although it did not take my boyfriend Danny long to fall in love with Chase and Alivia. He treats them like his own.
Question 3: Which brings us to the hero of our story, pause for the effect, drum-roll and tada! Chase. We have heard that the idea behind this event was related to your son. Tell us more about him.
Chase was my first baby. As a baby, he was almost too well behaved. He slept his nights at 4 months old, he would never cry, he loved long walks, car rides, sleepovers, any food I put in front of him, and his dimples would light up any room he entered. Right after his first birthday, I noticed that he wasn’t like the other kids around. He still didn’t have any words, he would flap his hands when he got excited, he mostly played on his own, and he wouldn’t play with toys the same way as the others. I started my journey to get him tested. We went through dozens of doctors, waiting lists, appointments, and more.
Finally, in December right before his 3rd birthday, he got diagnosed with “Autism with a language delay” which basically means he is completely non-verbal still. Chase is so kind and gentle and loving. He is always happy and still stealing people’s hearts.
Question 4: So how did you get the idea of connecting your passion for fishing to Autism that is one of the most complex neurobehavioral conditions we know today?
I’ve been in love with fishing since I was a little girl, and I always hoped that I would grow up and have my own children that I could take fishing. When Chase got diagnosed, I thought that those dreams would not come true. I thought that he wouldn’t be able to fish. That he wouldn’t be able to play sports. I thought that his life would be limited. Looking back now, not only was I wrong but I was very uneducated. After some research, I found out that fishing is actually known to be a great therapy for people on the spectrum.
So I took Chase fishing last year for his first time and the second I put the rod into my son’s hands, I knew it was going to be a life-changing moment. Almost immediately he caught a big perch and he started flapping his hands with excitement. I took the fish off his hook and handed it to him and he laughed and squeezed the fish and then threw it right back into the lake! We ended up fishing for 5 hours that day. I knew right then and there that other parents had to feel what I just felt. They needed to experience that moment with their child. So that is where this idea came to me.
Question 5: Care to share your experiences while organizing the event?
Organizing this event was honestly the most work and effort I’ve ever put towards anything. It started off with a random idea one day while fishing, to a Facebook status that got over 100 shares, to an event that came to life. I didn’t know where to start and I had a friend that was into marketing and he helped me make my logo and take care of the legal aspects like insurance and township permission. After that, I was on my own. I am pretty creative so the ideas were flowing from the second the idea came to life until the day of the event. The reason I chose Alexandria Park was that it’s one of my favorite places to fish, you can take a boat on the pond, there’s a beach, there are a splash pad and park, and lots of room for tents and entertainment.
I spent every single day of about 6 months while advertising and collecting donations and buying things for the event. I was also working 3 jobs and raising my 2 children. There were a few times that I was so burnt out that I got a babysitter and just slept for the day! There were also times where I didn’t touch the event for a week or two at a time because I got overwhelmed or just thought “Whom am I kidding? I can’t do this.” But after a little bit of a clear head, I got right back to work. Any time a new idea came to my head it really wasn’t hard to achieve. I had money, I had support, and I have a lot of connections.
I guess my only fear was that it wasn’t organized and I won’t be ready on the final day and people that showed up wouldn’t take me seriously or would think that it was just an amateur event. I was scared that my dreams were bigger than reality.
But I am very hard-headed and determined. I stayed up most of the last week before the event just putting the pieces together, coming up with a plan and collecting volunteers. I honestly didn’t think that the event was going to be a smooth ride. I kept telling myself “It’s my first time, people will understand. I will know better for the next year if anything goes wrong.” But I shook off the negative feelings and as the day of the event crept closer, I put on my big girl pants and tied up the loose ends, delegated all of my volunteers their respective responsibilities, and just had fun with it.
It turned out to be one of the proudest days of my life. It all came together perfectly. Everything was placed in the perfect spots, everything went according to schedule, we had plenty of food, all of my volunteers worked their hardest from the second we started setting up until the second we packed up the trucks and left at the end of the day. I felt so alone planning this event but I felt like I had the best team in the world on the day it finally happened. I am still beyond thankful.
Question 7: Such events do require substantial investment if not a whole lot of money. How did you manage the finances?
I started off by going around and asking the public for donations for an online auction. Like I stated in my above answer, I was blown away by the donations that came in. It was amazing to see how many people, especially small businesses, donate items. The online auction raised $2,677. I spent most of that money getting my logo out there and marketing. Buying t-shirts, buying stickers, making posters and plastering them all over to get it out there. I also spent some of that money to buy fishing rods and tackle for our special guests. I also had a silent auction at a local business and raised $1,740.
I paid for my insurance, more rods, prizes for the event, the stickers and lanyards for the medals (the actual medallion was donated by Larkin Inc.), some of the entertainment, and other things like plates, napkins, and of course more shirts, stickers, and posters. I also had a lot of item donations! I had a separate account for Fishing For Autism and saved all of my receipts for proof.
Question 8: How did the event turn out to be? Were you expecting such a result or it turned out to be better than your expectations?
The morning of the event I was extremely nervous. I literally put my heart and soul into this event for 6 months. My head was spinning and honestly, I wasn’t sure how many people I was expecting. Realistically, I thought there would be 100 people. There ended up being a little over 300 people! 33 children on the spectrum came and received their tackle box full of tackle, sunglasses, medal, fishing rod, and certificate. Most first time events have some flaws or things you have to fix the next time but to be completely honest, it was perfect. I would not change one thing. There were no issues, no hiccups, no complaints. Over 100 fish were caught.
Question 9: What are your future plans regarding 'Fishing For Autism'? Do you have something in mind, like making this an annual event?
I never thought that it would be this successful but seeing how happy everybody was and how many people enjoyed their day, I will make sure 'Fishing For Autism' happens every year. I have already started thinking about how to do things differently next year, what all to include to make this even more fun and educational for both, the kids and their parents.
Question 10: What were some noticeable difference you saw in Chase after you started taking him on fishing trips?
Chase has always been a very active boy. He never sits still for long which isn’t good when we want to go for supper or we simply want to watch a movie at night. His attention span is only a few seconds long. I think that fishing is really helping him with this. He has to sit there and wait for the bite and patiently reel it in and sometimes we are out there for hours. He is still very busy (we give him a bucket of rocks so he can throw them in the water when he’s bored with fishing) but fishing is helping him concentrate.
Question 11: What does Chase want to become or where do you want to see him in the future?
Chase is still so young so I believe that he has lots of time to pick out what he wants in his future. I will never rush him and I will support whatever decisions he makes in life. I love him more than life itself and I just want him to be healthy and happy.
Question 12: Any parting words for parents who have autistic children or any words of wisdom for our readers?
All I have to say is that if your child does get diagnosed then you are allowed to take some time to be sad or worried or whatever negative emotions you have but after that, take a good long look at your child and look beyond the disability. Look at how amazing they are. How they think outside the box. How they don’t pretend to be anyone but themselves. How they are so pure and happy and beyond intelligent. Embrace the differences. Help them find their passion and help them bloom. And if this event helps people see how truly incredible people with ASD are, then all my work was worth it.
We all saw how a tiny spark within Katy developed into a huge flame that turned years of disappointment, desolation, struggle, and frustration into something unbelievably big. Raising a child isn't easy. Raising a child as a single mother is tough. And raising a child with Autism as a single mother? No, you are completely wrong! Haha, it was a trick question. It isn't tough at all and Katy showed the same to us through her immense dedication. She showed us how it can be a life-altering experience. She showed us that either you can let the circumstances control you or you can take the lead.
Katy Cartier is a leader and she is a ray of hope for all those parents with kids who "suffer" from the so-called "disorders" as per society's norms. Be it Autism, Down's syndrome, a disabled (specially-abled) body, or any other condition that our society frowns upon, it is a problem till we treat it like one. Otherwise, it is an opportunity in disguise to live life differently from the billion other "normal" people. Of course, proper medical care is necessary but what needs to be removed is the stigma surrounding these issues. Educating ourselves is of paramount importance. These people don't need our sympathy. They just need an empathetic friend.
We need such valiant efforts and noble events to be brought out in front of the world which is completely unaware of it. This time around three hundred people attended the event. Next year let us make it three thousand from around the world. Thank you, Katy, for teaching us an important lesson and inspiring us. With these words, we bring this article to an end and leave you with some beautiful pictures from the event.