The NC Lions Visually Impaired People (VIP) Fishing Tournament celebrated its 29th anniversary from Oct 15-18, 2011. The first tournament was held in 1982 for 12 VIPs and hosted by 8-10 volunteers. This month there were about 500 VIPs and their care givers at the Tournament and 180-200 Lion volunteers. There were volunteers from 10 other States helping with the VIPs. This is one of the few events that the volunteers pay to work. However the cost is quite minimal as it cost me $80 for 4 nights lodging at the Hilton including breakfast and dinner for the 4 days.
For those of you that have not been to a VIP Fishing Tournament, I thought I would give you a brief run-down on the events of the week. Donna and I arrived in Manteo at the Lions building on Sunday about 1 pm for a quick lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers. We then washed and set up a total of 88 tables and 520 chairs. Tables were covered with paper and set up for the first VIP meal. Task completed by 5 pm we had the rest of the day free. On Monday morning at 9 am we met back at the Lions Building for breakfast and to get our assignments for the week. We were then free until about 5 pm when we needed to get ready for the VIPs. Around 6 pm they began to arrive by buses and vans from all over the State of North Carolina for barbeque and/or chicken dinner. The night was topped off by a 50s-60s sock hop. For those with no rhythm, there is a Bible study going on with gospel music. During the VIPs stay on the Outer Banks, they too are housed at various hotels in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devils Hill for a total cost of $60 for the week.
On Tuesday morning all 500 VIPs meet again for breakfast and then off to the fishing boats or piers for 5 hours of fishing. The VIPs and volunteers are served a box lunch donated by KFC. After many tangled fishing lines and jammed reels, the fish are weighed to determine who caught the biggest and most weight of fish. Some catches weighed all of 1 ounce but the individual VIPs could not be more proud of their accomplishment. This year’s catch ranged from nothing to a maximum of 24 pounds. After a short rest in their hotels, the VIPs again are bused back to the Lions building for dinner followed by a live band. Dancing is their favorite activity and many of the volunteers join in on the fun.
After breakfast on Wednesday, the VIPs can avail themselves of several informational sessions about eye care, advances in Macular Degeneration, and unique educational opportunities. Around noon 20 VIPs participate in the Blind Car Rally. The Lions version of “Bumper Cars”. The VIPs read the directions written in Braille and the sighted driver and helper drive the route as directed by the VIP. At 5 different stops they are given a playing card that is used to make the best poker hand. In the evening everyone returns to the Lion Building for the Banquet and awards. On this particular night the dinner music was provided by Milton Bullock, the lead singer for the Platters.
On Thursday is Final Clean-up for the volunteers. If you want a rewarding experience, I encourage you to spend a few days in Manteo helping at the VIPs at the Fishing Tournament. Donna and I had a fantastic time at the VIP Fishing Tournament and hopefully you will give it a try next year.
2nd Vice District Governor