Sunshine, fish and quality family time reeled in about 25 families Saturday to the Bellevue Rod and Gun Club for its annual Special Needs Family Fishing Expo.

The event welcomed families to the club off LaPlatte Road to enjoy a day full of free fishing and activities.

Tom Jurek, a club member, and Mike Overton, a club board member, started the expo five years ago.

With each passing year, Jurek said he is happy to help provide the event to the community.

“We are very proud of our club,” Jurek said. “To be able to share that with people has been enjoyable to all of our members.”

The club opened its doors to families and children of all ages. To take part, Jurek said, people simply just needed to show up.

“What we are trying to accomplish is to allow families to have a nice, open space to enjoy their family,” Jurek said.

During the event, a club member was assigned to each family to assist children in baiting their hook, casting and reeling in their catch.

Donna Sommerer, who was in attendance with husband Joel and daughter, Regan, 18, said it’s nice to be surrounded by families who also have special needs children.

“It means a lot,” Sommerer said. “It just shows how much compassion is out there in the community to put on this free event for the special needs community.”

Watching families have fun and catch a few bites is a joy, Jurek said.

“When you see a kid catch a fish, there is something about it that’s magical,” he said.

The day, however, wasn’t just about fishing. The event also offered children and families an up-close look at a Bellevue police car and firetruck and Life Flight helicopter.

There was also free food, face painting, hay-rack rides and souvenirs such as backpacks and tee-shirts for attendees.

Jurek said each year different local organizations reach out to take part, and he is always grateful.

“The generosity of the community has been fantastic,” he said.

The event was sponsored by Big Ink, Inc., Beardmore Chevrolet, Little Splashes of Color, LLC, and Culligan of Omaha.

While the next expo won’t be until next year, Jurek is already looking forward to another year of fun.

“The activity will never not be done,” Jurek said. “It’ll always be a tradition.”

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