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Derby held in officer's name brings families together



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Nine-year-old Emily DePaula was proud of the two fish she caught, although it was not her first or only catch of the day. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
June 09, 2010
Over 150 children set up camp with their families and learned the basics of trout fishing and water safety during the Gilford Police Relief Association's seventh annual Memorial Fishing Derby, held in honor of Officer Kainen Flynn.

Flynn had a passion for the outdoors, where he unfortunately drowned on June 4, 2003 in a boating accident while trout fishing without a life jacket.

Thanks to dedicated sponsors and a tremendous supply of food and trout fish at the Gunstock pond, the derby will continue on as a tradition for years to come, say its organizers.

Last Saturday, dozens of families showed up in the rain during the wee hours.

"We are teaching kids to fish, teaching them water safety, and giving them time to spend with their parents," said Gilford's Sergeant Kristian Kelley, who helped initially start up the event.

Kelley said derby entries for children are free of charge, and meant solely as a memorial for a beloved officer and an opportunity for families to spend the day together outside.

With the help of local businesses, children were also able to receive rods and reels and prizes for the heaviest weighing catch, while families could help themselves to hot dogs and hamburgers thanks to Hannaford, Shaw's, Gunstock, and more.

The association puts its own money toward purchasing trout for the pond every year, and Kelley said they never skimp on fish to make sure that each child has a chance to catch one, or even five, during the course of the day.

Each participant was also able to enter into a go-cart raffle and eligible for the grand prize, a new kayak.

Although the derby is local, families from all over New England find themselves drawn to the event.

"We always have an excellent turnout. Locals know about it, but it reaches people from different states. The derby has brought in a couple 1,000 kids over the last seven years," said Kelley. "In 10 or 20 years, hopefully these kids will bring their own children. It's tough, but I hope that long after I retire, this derby will still be here."

Kelley said the fact that children actually find themselves catching fish and involved within the derby helps the event sustain itself. He said that even refining the events entailed during the annual derby has seemed to help its overall longevity.

After children caught a few fish and hung up their biggest catch of the day, the trout, not as resilient as the bass when taken out of the water, would be iced and donated to the Squam Lakes Science Center and related associations, so they would not go to waste.

Ray Meyer of Alton Bay, youth director for the New Hampshire Bass Federation and coordinator for of the Junior Bass Masters, has also come to the derby for seven years.

"We are giving the kids something more than fishing with a casting competition," said Meyer, who supplied children with scales to weigh their trout and fishing equipment.

Kids who came out on top during the fishing derby will also have an opportunity to enter in national casting match through the Junior Bass Masters.

Meyer said he has had ties with the Gilford Police Department for a decade or so and was contacted years ago to help support and sustain the local derby by making it more accessible to children and their families.

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