Michael Jarecki didn't want to put down his new fishing rod, but he still had a lot of gear to pick out.
The 10-year-old Omahan was enjoying a shopping spree provided by Cabela's to deck him out for a charity Fish-A-Thon that will help to raise money for the ChILD Foundation, an organization that assists children with interstitial lung disease.
The Fish-A-Thon is scheduled Aug. 17 and 18 at Calamus Reservoir. People may pledge a certain amount per fish caught by Michael or just make a donation to the ChILD Foundation. Friends and family will be there to support his fishing efforts.
Michael has bronchiolitis obliterans — an extremely rare and incurable form of the disease. He's needed extra oxygen since he was 7 and makes frequent trips to Denver to see specialists.
Michael doesn't let his disease define him, mom Mindy said.
“He can't play sports like other boys his age,” she said. “But he loves fishing and hunting, so that's what he does.”
He and younger brothers Lance and Alex often go with dad Eric to Wehrspann, Zorinsky or Wanahoo lakes. Eric Jarecki purchased a boat in the spring to give them a better experience.
“And when we can't make it to a lake, he goes with his friends or brothers down to the creek near our house,” Eric Jarecki said.
Michael doesn't care what he's catching, as long as he can keep his line in the water.
He got some help with that during the recent shopping spree.
First Michael picked out a nice spincasting reel, then a rod with just the right action. Each purchase was made after a great deal of hands-on decision making.
Beside him for much of the time was 8-year-old Lance. They eyed aisles of lures, each one better than the next.
Michael's parents didn't make him use his oxygen tubes while he was shopping, but the machine is needed at night and will be used this fall at school. Even with the oxygen, Michael gets tired easily.
Jeremy Zimmerman, the fishing department manager at Cabela's, spent three hours with Michael, filling two shopping carts with gear. Then Michael got a chance to feed the fish in the aquarium.
“He was so excited to see the aquarium from that angle and learn about the different fish,” Mindy Jarecki said.
Michael's parents decided to use his fishing expertise to help raise money for the Children's Interstitial Lung Disease Foundation, which helps support him and other children with the disease. The ChILD Foundation was started in 2004 by a group of families and a handful of medical specialists.
“Fishing helps him cope,” Eric Jarecki said. “And he loves it. He can have the time of his life catching 4-inch bluegills.”
For more information about the Fish-A-Thon, call Mindy Jarecki at 402-216-1364 or Eric Jarecki at 402-681-8368. Donations can also be made at www.firstgiving.com.