My brother Mark has Down Syndrome and when he was younger needed physical therapy to help strengthen his muscles. I have been fly fishing for over fifteen years and know the health benefits of the sport. In 2007, while attending Chico State University, a colleague and I worked to create an opportunity for people with Down Syndrome. DownStream fly fishing was created as part of a movement to inspire people with Down Syndrome to try fly fishing. It is my hope that through fly fishing, people with Down Syndrome can improve coordination, fine tune motor skills, boost social skills and attain a sense of accomplishment while having fun. Additionally, my goal is to include family members in order to promote family activities in an outdoor environment. The program started out as a graded project and has grown to be a community project.
The first year was great with 13 students, 30 volunteers and over 100 visitors. We worked with a local school in Chico, CA that specializes in working with kids with disabilities. Local sponsors included fly fishing clubs and local businesses. The next year, 2008, was even bigger with 20 students, 40 volunteers, over 100 visitors, more sponsors and local news coverage. Both 2007 and 2008 events were held in Chico, California.
DownStream Fly Fishing 2009 hosted 20 students (some of them have been to all previous years), and over 50 volunteers. I changed venues to a private ranch just outside Marysville, California in hopes to be able to offer more to the students and be able to host a larger event. Sponsors for 2009 included Sac-Sierra branch of Trout Unlimited, Certified Systems, Willow Creek Event Facility, Propel Fuels and Northern Waters Fly Fishing.
Here he is, Mark, my brother