Fishing for Kids

Canucks assistant captain and CAN spokesman Willie Mitchell presented Nick Hoffmann with a hockey stick signed by the Vancouver Canucks.

CAN chair and Canucks co-owner Paolo Aquilini with Deborah Sweeney, VP of Communications for BC Children’s Hospital.

Fishing for Kids coordinator Al Cloke with his daughter Alana (top), with Brian Legge (bottom left) and tournament participants Bruce Knight of SMS and Mike Ranallo, sales director of Komatsu.

Mitchell Zulinick, COO of Arrow Reload Systems, with President of Imperial Metals, Brian Kynoch.

West Coast Fish Club VP Brian Grange, with Sunny Bear and Dr. Bruce Vechere of the BC Childrens Hospital.

Tournament participant and CEO of Delta Land Development Ltd., Bruce Langereis

Chef David Hawksworth with his team and everyone’s favourite aquatic mascot.

Jessica Hoffman and Derek Jory of

CAN Volunteer Nadine Landa and Director of Social & Vocational Programs Robyn Frame.

BCCH patient Michael Hoffmann with Fin, Paolo Aquilini and Willie Mitchell (top left) With Global BCs Aaron McArthur (top right) and, of course, Sunny Bear.

Event: Fishing for Kids Tournament  

Setting: Sept. 3. 2009, South Terminal, Vancouver International Airport

Critique: Fin-tastic!

Every September since 2006, the West Coast Fishing Club has held a tournament to benefit sick children in British Columbia, an endeavour that has raised more than $1.5 million to date. This year the Canucks Autism Network joined BC Children’s Hospital in sponsoring the event. Founded by Paolo Aquilini and his wife, Clara, CAN advocates for kids with autism. (The Aquilini’s son Christian was diagnosed with autism in 1996.) And diagnoses are on the rise: in 1996, medical officials determined that one in 13,000 British Columbian children had autism. Today that number is one in 7000.

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Autism is complicated. Unlike other conditions known for their coloured ribbons – autism’s is a pastiche of puzzle pieces in rainbow hues – those who live with it are usually unable to speak out to ask for help. With Rain Man still the disorder’s benchmark cultural reference, it’s the crucial task of organizations like CAN to provide support, raise public awareness, and teach compassion.

The $132,750 raised at this year’s Fishing for Kids will help bring sport and outreach programs to 30 schools in B.C.  – a significant increase from last year’s total of three. “The response has been overwhelming,” says Paolo Aquilini. “We feel that every child with autism has a lot to contribute, but that needs to be harnessed. They need to be empowered.”

With almost 7,000 identified cases of autism present in Lower Mainland schools, it’s a massive undertaking. CAN, however, is committed: “We had 200 families come to our open skate last winter,” says Aquilini. “I had mothers telling me that it was the first time they were able to go out as a family. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.”