My Name is Seth Rodgers. As part of my Bar Mitzvah preparations, I am doing a tzedakah (or social action) project in my community. It took me a while to decide WHAT I should do for my project, but I have known for a while WHO I would do it with. Nearly two years ago, I attended a presentation by a member of our synagogue (Temple Beth Am ) who spoke very proudly of an organization he belonged to. He told us how the organization was helping him learn to cook, play golf, and work out at the gym. It was not until the man had nearly finished his presentation that I realized he was blind. I was amazed! My assumption was that blind people could not do things that "require" sight. But his organization--Beyond Blind Institute-- is working hard to change this.
The mission of BBI is to empower all blind individuals to emerge from the shell of blindness that surrounds them and to give them the best life has to offer. Their unique programs are designed to re-cultivate each individual’s strengths and talents that have been left behind due to blindness. Their Health, Wellness and Educational Institute offers innovative programs such as the “Sightless Chef” Culinary Program and Bodies Beyond Blindness for physical fitness. I decided that I wanted to help this awesome organization. But what was I going to do as a mitzvah for this group?
One of my favorite hobbies is fishing with my family. One afternoon, while fishing with my dad and little brother, we came up with an idea to introduce the members of BBI to fishing. At first, this idea sounded a little crazy, given all the sharp hooks and swinging rods. But then I realized that blind people could bottom fish (no casting) with a little help from an experienced fishing buddy. And since so much of fishing is feeling the strike of a fish on the line and setting the hook, I thought that blind fishermen might even have an advantage over those of us with sight. And so my mitzvah project was born!
Since then my Dad and I have worked closely with Joyce Gugle, the amazing founder of BBI. She is also legally blind and is a strong advocate for her cause. We named the program "The Blind Anglers," and our motto is "We fish from a different angle." The program will allow members of BBI to spend an afternoon on a fishing charter boat off the coast of Jupiter, FL. Volunteer fishing buddies will work one on one with BBI members to help them set up their fishing tackle and check their hooks for bait. But it’s the Blind Anglers who will catch the fish! It should be a real thrill for everyone. Hopefully the BBI members will catch some keepers and take them to their next Sightless Chef class for a seafood feast.
My goal is to raise $2700 for the first phase of this project. This amount will cover the cost of the charter boat, t-shirts, hats, and lots of bait for 30 members of BBI. I am also seeking the support of local companies to help sponsor the program, which may reduce how much money I need to raise.
I am also seeking volunteer Fishing Buddies who are willing to come along and mentor a Blind Angler. If you are over 18 years old, know a little about drift fishing in South Florida, and would like to help out, please email my dad, LeRoy Rodgers, at [email redacted].
The first Blind Anglers trip will happen in May 2015.
The non-profit 501(c)(3) organization Beyond Blind Institute (BBI) is a unique, innovative organization dedicated to the empowerment of visually impaired and blind individuals seeking equal opportunity in today’s ever demanding society.
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