Man helps kids without fathers ‘heal’ by taking them on fishing trips every weekend

Lakeland, Florida, resident William Dunn noticed his eight-year-old neighbor storming in and out of his own house across the street.

Dunn became concerned when the boy did that often.

“I wondered what was going on in his life, so one day I asked him.”

I realized there might be something I can do for him after he told me he didn’t have a father.”

In the Florida Keys, Dunn, 57, assisted his father with his lobster business for a time. Fishing has always brought him peace and taught him patience, he said.

On the water, you can forget about your problems and just enjoy the moment, he said.

The father of three asked his young neighbor’s mom for permission to take him fishing.

He taught the boys’ friends and other school kids how to hold a fishing pole, rig a line, and reel in a catch after spending a Saturday afternoon on the water.

It’s been 15 years since then.

Dunn has taken groups of kids fishing on weekends since then. The majority of them did not have father figures and had never fished before. They had moved from one foster home to another for years.

“They had been through a lot and they had seen a lot, and their lives were difficult,” Dunn said. When they were fishing, all of that faded away.”

When the kids were on the boat, Dunn said they would laugh and make new friends. He knew he was onto something when he saw that.

A happy young boy holding two fish.

To fund the weekly fishing expeditions on charter boats, Dunn took a substantial chunk of his salary from selling tires. In 2018, he founded the nonprofit Take a Kid Fishing Inc. in Lakeland, a city with dozens of lakes.

Over the past three and a half years, Dunn and a few volunteers have introduced over 2,500 children-most without fathers-to spending peaceful time on the water and catching fish.

When he was growing up in Miami, Dunn, known as “Big Will,” always felt lucky to have a father who took him fishing.

My dad and I always had a great relationship as the youngest of six children.

Although he lives in Tennessee now, I still carry the lessons he taught me. Fishing isn’t about what you catch – it’s about the memories you make.”

“That’s what I hope to impart to every child I introduce to fishing,” he said.

The community has praised Dunn’s dedication to mentoring these young anglers.

Tom Pichette, 59, a former youth pastor who has accompanied him on many fishing trips as a volunteer, said, “Kids can sense he’s genuine.”

“They’ve been dealt some tough cards, and they climb aboard with some tough stories to tell. Will accepts them as they are.”

In January 2020, Terry Pryor, 32, a mom of three, lost her father, Richard Pryor, in a car accident.

Her main concern was Jayden, who was 10 at the time. Because of his close relationship with his dad, he felt the need to be the man of the house right away.

He tried to be strong for everyone and didn’t show any emotion,” Pryor said. After learning about Take a Kid Fishing, I knew what to do to help him.

With Dunn’s help, Jayden has become a dedicated fisherman.

William Dunn going on a fishing expedition with a group of kids

“Will has helped me grow by taking me fishing,” he said. “I hope he knows how much I appreciate his help.”

Every kid in the program receives their own fishing pole and tackle box. However, the true highlight of the experience is the relationships they build and the healing that happens on the water.

There’s nothing like feeling that first tug on the line and seeing a child’s face light up,” Dunn said. Every weekend, I get to witness that.”

These kids are equally fortunate to be mentored by such a good man. Will Dunn, thank you for changing these children’s lives one fishing expedition at a time.


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