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Everyday Greatness: Caring for Fatherless Kids by Taking Them Fishing

Inspired by his strong relationship with his own father, William Dunn takes kids without dads on fishing excursions.

William Dunn take children without fathers fishing
Credit: Photo courtesy William Dunn
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WHO HE IS William Dunn is the founder of Take a Kid Fishing, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Lakeland, Florida, that mentors underprivileged and fatherless kids through the sport of fishing. A dozen years ago, William noticed his six-year-old neighbor, Camran, seemed angry. He’d storm out of the house, shouting at his mom. One day, William saw the boy outside and started a conversation. Camran shared that his dad wasn’t in his life.

William asked Camran’s mom for permission to take him fishing. Camran was “hooked” from that first trip. The two fished together several times a week, and William saw positive changes in Camran’s behavior. “That’s when I realized that God was calling me to help fatherless kids,” he says. Soon William was teaching Camran’s friends and other kids in the neighborhood to fish.

WHAT HE DOES During the week, William works as a tire salesman. On weekends, he and a few other volunteers, mostly people from his church, take 20 to 25 kids out fishing on a charter boat. William reaches out to local foster homes and group homes to invite the kids to spend the day on the water. Many have never been fishing or even on a boat, so William—or Big Will, as the kids call him—starts by teaching the basics. Then come the life lessons that fishing offers: patience, teamwork and the simple joy of relaxing in the outdoors. Take a Kid Fishing, Inc., has taken more than 600 fishing trips with almost 2,000 kids who don’t have a father in their lives.

WHY HE DOES IT William grew up in Miami in a rough area. His dad ran a lobster business in the Florida Keys, and William helped with it. He and his dad had a great relationship. Fishing was a huge part of that. “Fishing was so peaceful,” William says. “It was like an escape.”

He wants to share his love of fishing with kids who don’t have a father to take them. “I just want to show them that I care about them, that I’m there for them,” he says. Because many kids go on multiple trips, William is able to build relationships with them. He and Camran, now 20, still regularly fish together, and Camran sees Big Will as a father figure.

HOW HE DOES IT When William explained his mission to the captain of the Double Eagle, a charter boat in Clearwater, the captain offered him a great deal. Take a Kid Fishing, Inc., pays only $25 per kid to spend the day on the boat. Many kids opt to catch and release, but on a recent trip with kids from a group home, they kept the fish and enjoyed some delicious fish tacos that night.

Take a Kid Fishing, Inc., has corporate sponsors, including Planet Fitness and L. L. Bean, which has donated rods, reels and clothing. William welcomes donations from individuals too. “My church, the Family Worship Center of Lakeland, has really come alongside me in this ministry,” he says. “Anything we need, they help.”

HOW YOU CAN DO IT Take a Kid Fishing, Inc., has a huge impact, but it started because William wanted to help one kid. Do you know a child who might benefit from your friendship? Introduce them to fishing or another hobby you enjoy. The activity doesn’t matter as much as your presence in their lives. For more information, visit takffl.com.

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