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12-Year-Old Boy Teaches Children With Cancer How to Fish

Inside Edition logo Inside Edition 2/13/2019 Deborah Hastings
a person sitting on a bed: A 12-year-old Florida boy who loves to fish and has a wealth of compassion is teaching children with cancer how to handle a rod and reel. © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. A 12-year-old Florida boy who loves to fish and has a wealth of compassion is teaching children with cancer how to handle a rod and reel.

A 12-year-old Florida boy who loves to fish and has a wealth of compassion is teaching children with cancer how to handle a rod and reel.

Jake Klopfenstein says it takes a lot of patience to be a cancer patient, so why not learn a sport that also involves a lot of waiting around for something to happen.

"He is very passionate about fishing," his mom, Toni, told InsideEdition.com. It was his idea to start Angling for Relief, a nonprofit group that visits pediatric cancer wards, dispenses bait boxes and fishing poles and takes kids with cancer out on fishing trips.

Jake came up with the plan after watching a childhood friend battle Ewing's sarcoma. The boy missed a lot of school because of medical treatments and spent a lot of time sitting in the hospital waiting to undergo treatment.

"He said, 'Mom, he doesn't even get to go fishing,''' Toni said. He wanted to do something to help, and of course, fishing popped first into his mind.

"It's relaxing," Toni said. "It's being out in nature. They're not thinking about 'Oh, I have cancer.' They're outside, near the water."

Their first field trip was last year, and their most recent was earlier this month at Picnic Island in Tampa.

"Our live fishing events are for (pediatric) patients who have cancer, cancer survivors and their siblings," Toni said. Their gear, clothing and hats are donated by local business owners.

"The fishing community has been phenomenal," she said. "Companies heard what we were doing and wanted to help." 

Jake sometimes records videos to announce donations, such as one he did about four months ago when his group received 50 rods and reels from Alafia Marine. The gift made it possible to give the fishing poles to children with cancer, rather than having the patients return them after field trips.

The organization also receives donations of tackle boxes, lines and other tools, which Jake and other volunteers distribute to pediatric cancer wards, where children can practice "dry fishing," or casting their lines from their hospital beds.

When they are physically able, they will eventually go on an outing with Jake and his mom and other kids just like them. 

"When they're around other children who have cancer, they don't get a lot of questions" about why they are so thin, or why they have no hair of why they so easily tire, Toni said. "They're just out in nature. And it's a lot of fun to pull out a fish."

 

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