Hilda Stuart (left) helps a child from the Boys & Girls Club cast a line Sept. 15, 2012, at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tenn. (TMP Photo/D. Whittle)
Dozens of children enjoyed a day of fishing during what they dubbed as the "John Stuart Rocking and Reeling Club" event held Sept. 15 on the pristine 110-acre Couchville Lake at at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage.
Cheers echoed out over the glass-smooth water from the more than 35 children, many of whom had never fished before, from the Boys & Girls Club after prayer and safety instructions from Jeff Brookman and his cast of volunteers.
His siblings, Jon-Michael and Kayla Brookman, and friends were in charge of keeping hooks baited, extracting fish from hooks, and retrieving some hooks that landed up in trees overlooking the lake.
“We know you all will act as good sportsmen, and look behind you as you prepare to cast your baited hooks into the water,” Jeff Brookman said to the children. “And try to stay out of the trees, for the 'tree bass' are not biting today.”
Another cheer echoed through the woods from the youngsters, who ranged in age from 6 to 12 years old, as they agreed to change the event’s official name from Fishing For Kids to the “John Stuart Rocking and Reeling Club,” sponsored by Smyrna Parkway Baptist Church, O’Charley’s Restaurant of Smyrna, The Murfreesboro Post and The Cannon Courier, as well as the Bass Pro Shop of Opry Mills.
“We like the name change to the Rocking & Reeling Club since our church stands for (Jesus) Christ, the rock of Christian salvation and service to God’s children,” Jeff Brookman said, as he helped another youngster cast their hopeful hook, line and bobber into the waters.
In less than one official minute of fishing, angler Matthew Wright showed the right stuff when he hoisted in the group's first catch of the day, on a new rod and reel donated by Bass Pro.
“We can’t thank Bass Pro enough for donating 50 new rod and reels for use annually for our event,” Brookman added.
More cheers soared out over the lake with arrival of Hilda Stuart and Jennifer Stuart, the wife and daughter of event's namesake Smyrna resident John Stuart. His son, country music singer Marty Stuart, was also absent from the event this year due to prior commitments.
“John (Stuart) also couldn’t be here today because of illness,” said Hilda Stuart, a longtime member of Parkway Baptist Church.
Jennifer Stuart said it is a joy to watch the children tackle fishing for the first time.
“We’re here to watch the excitement on a child’s face as they catch their first fish of life,” she said, as she helped serve hamburgers and condiments, compliments of O’Charley’s.
Kelli Reuben, director of the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club, said the children who are part of the organization talk about the annual fishing event all year long.
“We can’t thank the sponsors and (Jeff) Brookman enough for their tireless work," she said, "and efforts to bring thousands of smiles to our children, most of whom have never fished before."