When Jake Klopfenstein was in kindergarten he and the other kindergarteners were paired with 5th, 6th, and 8th grade buddies. Jake easily bonded with 8th grader Ryan Baker. Towards the end of Kindergarten Jake noticed Ryan was not around anymore. Being the kind hearted person he is, Jake wondered where his buddy had gone. He learned that Ryan was in the hospital battling Ewing Sarcoma, a battle that eventually took Ryan’s life. When Jake was 12 he could not stop thinking about Ryan. How Ryan’s cancer prevented him from participating in any activities and how children going through cancer have limitations of what they can do. Jake loves helping others and fishing. He wanted to do something for children battling cancer that involved fishing. Jake cast his idea to his mom who completely supported him. They talked to the fishing community and Ryan’s family about how Jake could help support kids with cancer that involved fishing. Nothing was there so Jake and Toni decided to start their non-profit Angling For Relief. A way to use fishing to bring relief to children fighting cancer.
“Fishing is not an escape to life, but often a deeper immersion into.” Harry Middleton
Jake knew fishing would bring positivity to the lives of children going through cancer and their families. To Jake, fishing is therapy. A peaceful environment where any anxiety, stress, or other issues drop into the background as you bait your hook and cast your line in the quest of catching a fish. Jake and his mom Toni talked about the fishing community being an amazing and supportive community. Fishing is a wonderful activity that gives these families a way to bond outside of the hospital and make new friends. Where whales of stories and memories of the experience linger way past the fishing event. Some develop a new love of fishing and continue to fish after these moments of joy that Angling for Relief brings to them.
“Our heroes ride IV poles down the hallways. They have bald heads yet still are beautiful, they go through chemo, radiation, and lots of pokes. They smile even though they are fighting for their lives. They might be small but they are mighty.” Unknown
This is how Angling for Relief works. They receive notification that a child is in the hospital fighting cancer from one of the many relationships they have built with organizations who support children with cancer. With the family’s permission Jake delivers a Dry Fishing Kit to the child in the hospital. When Jake cannot personally deliver the Dry Fishing Kit directly to the child due to COVID or other restrictions they still get a Dry Fishing Kit to the child. The Dry Fishing Kits include a three foot fishing rod with a bobber, fish identification cards, sunglasses, fishing related stickers and supplies to practice tying knots, giving instructions on how to use it. The children practice casting their line for hours, sometimes even when receiving chemotherapy and other treatments. Jake has experienced the excitement kids get about their Dry Fishing Kits. This experience brings a bit of normalcy into a child’s life that is not so normal at that point in time. Fishing for Relief events are for children and families to go fishing with charter captains and skilled volunteers. All supplies are provided including protective hats and shirts along with lunch. These events give the children and families a chance to connect with people going through similar experiences. To see they are not alone in the club no one wants to belong to. During an Inshore Fishing Trip, licensed Captains take one family out at a time for a four hour fishing adventure. All supplies, including fishing poles, tackle boxes and food are provided. Families keep the supplies they receive from the Fishing for Relief and Inshore Fishing Trips. Learning how to fish while being on the sea builds memories, bonding, and healing. Recently Angling for Relief has included bereaved families for the Inshore Fishing Trips. One mother, whose child had died from cancer, felt her child was with her as she experienced the water and heavens meeting. That is the power of fishing. That is what Angling for Relief does for others.
“Happy people make you happy.” Jake Klopfenstein
Jake and Toni shared that Angling for Relief does all of this with the support of many people. From Gillz Fishing Apparel, Flats Mafia Fishing, Charter Captains, and volunteers putting together Dry Fishing Kits there are always people willing to help out. There is always someone who wants to help these kids and their families out. Seeing the smiles and witnessing the learning of new skills brings such joy to all. There have been times when the amount of volunteers outnumber the amount of children and families participating in events. The kind and helpful people who are part of the fishing community want to do what they can to help these kids and their families.
“There is certainly something about angling that tends to produce serenity of mind.” Henry Gilby
Jake is an 11th grader, volunteer tutor, and on the fishing team at his school. Toni works full-time. They do Angling for Relief around their schedules. Neither of them would trade what they do with Angling for Relief. They have touched 250 lives, witnessing the smiles, joy, and relief for the children fighting cancer and their families. Everything they do is worth every moment. The kindness Ryan showed to Jake continues in the kindness Angling for Relief shows to people going through so much.
It is with honor and admiration we shine the Kindness Champion spotlight on Angling for Relief. Where the power and healing of fishing is bringing relief to children fighting cancer and their families one cast at a time. We thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.
For more information on Angling for Relief here is their information: