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Reeling for Autism fishing tournament registration open

By Staff | Mar 27, 2019

Do you want to spend the day out on the water fishing while supporting a local nonprofit that serves families and children with autism spectrum disorder?

Join Family Initative, Inc. for its third annual Reeling for Autism fishing tournament to be held Saturday, April 21. The photo, catch-and-release tournament is for two trout, two redfish and two snook. The tournament will be held from 7:30 am. to 3:30 p.m. There is a mandatory captain’s meeting Friday, April 20, at 6 p.m. at Nervous Nellie’s.

Registration is $150 per angler and can be done by emailing info@fi-florida.org, or by calling 239-233-5210.

The April 21 event also will include a silent auction held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and music and raffles from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Nervous Nellie’s, 1131 First St., Fort Myers Beach.

Family Initiative President David Brown said Nervous Nellies has been fantastic to work with, as they donate a portion of their whole day to Family Initiative.

While the anglers are out on the water fishing, Brown said they will have a section of the pier dedicated for children’s fishing.

“The kids get to participate for free in the kids fishing section of the tournament,” he said.

The fishing tournament winner will win $1,500; second place will receive $1,000; and third place will receive $500.

Brown said they had 15 boats in the tournament last year.

“We had a good solid turnout,” he said. “We had over 350 people come through that day.”

Vice President Anjali Van Drie said Family Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Cape Coral, began five years ago by herself and Brown to provide support and services to families and individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

Both Brown and Van Drie worked in children welfare and found that a lot of children coming into care who were either diagnosed, or not diagnosed, with autism spectrum disorder, only had some clinical support. She said they wanted to form an organization that focused on the well-being of the family and individuals.

The organization began with one program, their social skills playgroup, which is held on the weekends. Van Drie said that program has grown exponentially the last few years.

The program provides a supportive environment for youth ages 5-16 where they can develop socialization skills while building friendships each week. An Applied Behavior Analysis clinicians work with the children while promoting positive social interaction.

The organization also offers an Autism Art and Improv Class, which is made possible through a partnership with Alliance for the Arts. A parent support group is also offered.

Last year alone, Family Initiative served 300 individuals across Southwest Florida.

“We get families from Marco Island to Sarasota and from Clewiston and LaBelle,” Van Drie said, due to the limited resources available.

Brown said the number of children disagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is increasing.

“The prevalence of autism has grown at an alarming rate,” he said. “Our community has grown. There are younger families moving into Southwest Florida.”

A position funded by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has afforded Family Initiative to have an autism navigator position. Families link up with the autism navigator and are provided with everything they need to know.

“Most of the referrals now are through social media,” Brown said.

Proceeds from Reeling for Autism is supporting the organizations new autism center, which will have an April groundbreaking in Cape Coral.

“We are super excited about opening the space,” he said, adding that it is uniquely designed with the help of professional firms and interior design companies. “It’s a labor of love for a lot of people. We have been really fortunate to have some prominent businesses in the community help us get this off the ground and growing.”

The planning for the center began a year and a half ago.

The center will provide a place for families to come together, a space for them to hang out and talk to other parents and professionals.

“We wanted a space that felt right for them,” Brown said.

For more information about Family Initiative, visit www.fi-florida.org.