Before I start writing this column about a young man snatched in his prime by emotions that I myself felt at his age, I must ask you this:. Have you ever seen a squirrel jumping from one tree to the next?
Most of the time they make it with no problem, but ever now and again, they land on a branch, the branch breaks and they plummet to the ground.
Staying on the squirrel analogy, if you have never witnessed one of these ill-fated leaps then here is one that everyone has encountered at some time. In this case a squirrel is smack dab in the middle of the road and sees your car coming, he goes left, then right, then left, unable to make up his little mind.
Well that’s precisely how I feel about writing this column.
With that said, here I go.
A couple of columns ago I implored you to take part in the First Annual Collin Stokes Memorial Inshore Fishing Tournament to be held on Oct.10 out of Shelter Cove Marina on Hilton Head.
If the “Stokes” name rings a bell than it should. Collin, a 22-year old student at Clemson University was the son of Al and Shannon Stokes. Both are priceless parts of the Lowcountry. Shannon is a teacher, and Al is probably best known to fisherman and water lovers for his 30 years as director of the Waddell Mariculture Center here in Bluffton.
So now that you know the relationship, here is where I take a leap that is not only delicate but may also be way out of bounds on my part.
Like myself, any of you that have children find it nearly impossible to fathom losing one of your children. As a close friend of Al, I was privy to the love he had for Collin.
Named after the Colleton River, Collin was as much a part of Al as any father and son I have ever known. When Collin died, a part of both Shannon and Al died with him.
To say it has been a struggle for them both is an understatement. But with that said, that is not why I am writing this. You see, Al has given so much of himself to this whole area it would be impossible to quantify his passion to help keep our fisheries and waters healthy and productive.
Night and day, he works on a shoestring budget to repopulate our waters with everything from redfish and trout to cobia. I am talking millions of fish.
But even more importantly, he gives his time to educate our youth, talk to groups on the importance of keeping our waters healthy and best of all, finds solutions to these pressing issues.
No matter when or where, he gladly gives of his time and knowledge to just about anyone that asks.
Without beating around the bush any longer, I am asking that as many of you as possible plan to fish in the Collin Stokes Memorial Tournament. This is not a tournament about how much money you can win, it’s a tournament about caring and more importantly, support for a family that has done more for every one of you that spends time on the water. It is almost incomprehensible.
There will be cash winners and tons of other prizes but the main goal is to raise the funds to fulfill a dream, Al’s dream. Every cent made will go toward a new entrance to the Mariculture Center to honor Collin and just as importantly, all the amazing things Al has done over his tenure at Waddell.
Working with local wrought iron artist Rhonda Fantozzi, the new entrance will be a aquatic scene with intertwining redfish and marsh grass with brick columns on either side and plaques recognizing Collin and Al.
The entry fee is $150, a small price to pay to hopefully show the Stokes our love and our support.
Even if you can’t make the tournament, make a tax deductable donation. The captains meeting will be held at 5 p.m., Oct. 9 in front of the Shelter Cove Marina Store.
Prizes will be awarded for redfish, trout, flounder and redfish with the most spots. Personally, should I win a category, I will donate my winnings to the cause at hand.
That is the spirit we hope to have at this event. After the weigh-in on Saturday, a party to celebrate Collin and the entire Stokes family will be held.
If you cannot make the captains meeting or have questions, you can enter via email at email@example.com or go to the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CollinStokesMemorialFishingTournament.
Whether you knew Collin or not, let’s show Al and the rest of his family that even after such a unimaginable loss, the community for which they have devoted their lives for has love in their hearts and faith that Collin, and Al, will never be forgotten.