Hometown Heroes: Local pastor gives kids hope, with a hook

- It was a perfect day for fishing on Clearwater Beach: Beautiful weather, calm water, and a catch or two.

An afternoon boat ride doesn't happen often for most of the kids involved in the Wishing and Fishing program. They currently live in foster care and some have never been out on a boat. But thanks to Pastor Tommy's Reach and Teach Foundation, they get a break from all the chaos going on in their lives.

"It's peaceful. And the water it like erases everything that goes on," said 14-year-old Diasaunte.

Pastor Tommy started the program six years ago after his daughter was diagnosed with cancer. He saw that she was struggling with the harsh treatments and wanted to do something to ease her pain. So he took her out on the water.

"We got her out on the boat one day and dolphins were coming up and we saw manatees. It was a God thing. She was happy and she was enjoying herself," said Pastor Tommy. 

Now he shares that gift with other sick kids and other children going through tough times.

"He's a really nice guy. I really appreciate what he's doing. He's really gone out of his way," said 15-year-old Julius.

For Pastor Tommy, helping others is no inconvenience; it's his purpose.

"My joy comes from seeing the smiles on their faces," he continued.

And witnessing seeing the kids' excitement when they catch their first fish.

"It's a very fun experience when you hook them and put them in a boat and then unhook them and put them back," said 17-year-old Miguel.

It's a lesson in catch and release that teaches these kids that, even when the waters are rough, there's still hope for calmness and peace.

For more information: www.wishandfish.com

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