Birmingham, Ala.—October 16, 2014 — “Coach Bryant said before every ballgame—there’s gonna be four or five plays that determine the outcome of the ballgame—you don’t know if you will be the hero or the goat,” said John Croyle, Founder of Big Oak Ranch. “Every one of us has four or five plays that make us the man or woman that we are.” He continued, “For those (pointing to the pictures attached to paintings) eight kids, you ask them to name the four or five plays that changed their lives and all eight would answer the week on the Snake River with On River Time.” The keynote speaker emphasized that children who have every reason to dwell on a traumatic past need life-changing positive experiences, such as On River Time.
On River Time (ORT), a 501(c)(3), held Fish On, a silent and live auction to expand its mission: providing children of abuse and neglect with hope and dreams, trust in others, and a sense of value through the experience of fly fishing. Due to the generosity of 137 attendees, ORT was able to raise more than $105,000. This remarkable outpouring from people who stand to gain nothing tangible from their donation is affirmation of the organization’s compelling purpose. As much as this number exceeded expectations, it certainly does not exceed ORT’s vision. Next year, even more children will go on an expanded journey.
B&A Warehouse was the venue for Fish On. The ambience was perfect for an organization that uses an outdoors and cabin experience to change lives. Just inside the front doors the walls were lined with silent auction items. Guests were invited to leisurely view the items while sipping drinks and socializing. In keeping with the theme of outdoor sport and getting away, many of the silent auction items were offered by fly-fishing companies, golf equipment companies and resorts. There were also several wine, jewelry and art items.
The entry to the dining room was flanked by artwork made by children who have enjoyed the On River Time experience. The children created Japanese-style fish prints with unique, watercolor backgrounds. Inside, the tables were decorated with river rocks, moss and fly fishing “bugs.” There were also canoes and other items to connote a fly fishing lodge.
Founder Steve Davis shared the story of ORT, and conveyed his commitment to growing the experience. He thanked the board, who are located throughout the country, and noted the great support from the construction industry. John Croyle, the keynote speaker, followed with testimony of how much ORT has impacted children from the Big Oak Ranch.
Croyle said “I don’t line up with just anybody,” and went on to describe Steve Davis’ and the ORT Board’s convictions. He said the children talk about the experience the entire year and remember every detail of the trip, but more importantly, it heightens their self-worth. He described that ORT meets his criteria of what makes a successful organization: 1. Identifying your calling; 2. Following that calling; 3. Seeing the fruit of your work. One of the children from previous years made such an impression on the Lodge at Palisades Creek staff that they have invited him to work as a summer employee in 2015; “there is your fruit,” said Croyle. He shared brief, moving anecdotes about what some of these children have gone through—their courage and resolve certainly affected the audience.
Granger, Thagard & Associates conducted an energetic live auction. Jack Granger connected immediately with the real purpose of each donation. From the Virgin Islands and Florida, to NYC and Italy, the trips had wide appeal—and of course there were some great fly-fishing packages.
Afterward, the band 7th Avenue South entertained with soulful rock and R&B music. Members Bruce Spiller, Todd Pickard, Jim Larson, Eric Crowe, and Sonja Spiller formed this band specifically to offer entertainment to nonprofit causes ORT.
What do the Fish On Proceeds Mean?
Since 2012 ORT has taken one trip per year to the Snake River in Idaho to offer deserving children a new skill, nature’s grandeur and fellowship with peers and mentors. ORT pays for lodging, airfare, all equipment needed, guides and food. The children stay at the 2014 Orvis Fly Fishing Lodge of the Year, The Lodge at Palisades Creek. As one can imagine, flying to a rural part of Idaho is not cheap. Expenses average $5,300 per child—this also accounts for 1 guardian for every 2 children. In June, ORT took a record number of 10 children on the trip.
Because of Fish On, ORT will reach our goal of 16 children next summer. Not only are they taking more children, but they are also expanding their reach, partnering with Still Creek Ranch in Bryan, Texas to improve the social experience for all—ORT will post more information on this new partnership soon. This year’s group will have an entire extra day to get a hands-on education about river conservation and ecology. Finally, next year ORT will invite high-school seniors who have gone on past trips to attend, serving as peer mentors.
And those are just the immediate plans: The ORT cabin, scholarships and more trips spread throughout the year are long-term goals that will be realized with your support. As John Croyle said “I can fill up the house with kids, but you gotta build the house.”