Wednesday, May 5, 2010

DownStream 2009

The following is a blog written by Mark Lynn. Mark was one of the many great volunteers at DownStream 2009.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do-

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do!"

What a great mantra...

and it fits in perfectly with my life of late...

I have some major challenges with which I struggle and deal on pretty much a daily basis.

Yet, I somehow manage to get along and fish on a supra-regular basis.

For me, abstinence from fishing is not an option.

I also find that the less self pity and the more gratitude I indulge in... the better off I am.

The perfect opportunity arose last weekend when fellow AR angler, Ryan Miller invited me to help out at his DownStream Outreach Program.

Ryan grew up with his younger brother, Mark (KOOL NAME@!) who was diagnosed as having Down Syndrome.

As Ryan grew up and metamorphosed into a fishing fanatic... he was diagnosed as having Down-Stream Syndrome and rather than fight it... he became a fishing guide.

Looking back, he realized that his brother actually taught him a good many things most notably, attentiveness, patience, perseverance, and compassion~:)

Mark admired and looked up to his brother and vice-versa I'm sure.

I bet they've fished a good many streams together over the years...

Ryan must have pondered how cool it would be to share his love and passion for the sport of fishing not just with his bro but with many young folks who often, because of their somewhat different appearance and exaggerated behaviors, get shunned by mainstream society.

And hence, DownStream was set into motion.

This was the third year of the annual event Ryan designed to connect special-needs folks with something very real, engaging, and inspirational.

I got a bit lost on the way to the event and not once or twice mind you... but three times. When all else fails, read the address on the directions!

That was what finally got me there.

I hadn't missed much as the band was just starting to move towards the pond.
I decided to just help out wherever needed and try to capture the essence of the day with camera and memory card.

It seems to me that human nature has a tendency towards remorse and sympathy for folks like Mark and Alison, Oscar and Peter, Chele and Sam who happen to have been born with a condition like Down Syndrome. I have pondered the hows and whys of this many times throughout my life and the best I can come up with is that there is a design far grander and far more purposeful than our mortal minds can conceive... a plan, a purpose which defies our limited comprehension and preconceptions of right/wrong, good/bad, normal/strange...

...and anyone with open eyes, mind and heart could surely see that these folks needed no sympathy. I walked the perimeter of "BOW'S END" 1/2 a dozen times during the course of the day...
and everywhere I went I saw only enthusiastic, jubilant, happy, smiling faces.

I think everyone must have read the back of the shirt that day and taken heed to John Wooden's directive:

The clouds and drizzle subsided and the morning sun emerged. There were 20-something students and at least twice that many volunteers.

I saw some old/new friends whom I'd met on my home river; Adrian, Teresa, Jason H., Rob, Charlie G. and also made many new friends during the course of the day.

It should come as no surprise that veteran angler, Mark Miller would put the bends to the first trout of the day... and what a fish! Way to go Mark!!

The program was divided into 4 sections:



Sometimes, the individuals who least enjoy 'living in the limelight'... are the ones who most inspire and leave the greatest, lasting impressions... Such is the case with Alison. I asked permission to take her photo at the FISH ART station and she was quite reluctant. Later in the day, I watched her fight and land a trout. The volunteers brought the netted fish to her and while we were all focused on the photo opportunity, Alison was concerned only with getting the fish back to the pond as quickly as possible... "Oh poor fish. We need to put it back NOW so it can LIVE!"
Way to go Alison! Many of our fisheries and anglers thereof could use the guidance of your wisdom and compassion...


Making repeated smooth casts, tying up the perfect wooly bugger, painting a 'rainbow-whale' and fighting lots of fish demands much energy so by noon time, everyone had worked up quite the healthy appetite.

Ryan gathered up the troops and passed out some fishing literature courtesy of one of the event sponsors.

I left DownStream 2009 feeling as though we had each accomplished something very worthwhile and had learned a bit more about who we are in the process.