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San Jacinto News Times - Local News

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Eighth Annual Hug-a-Tree/Kiss-a-Fish Youth Adventure to be held May 19-21


By Megan Whitworth
San Jacinto News-Times

Pack a sleeping bag, a lantern and a tent, the Eighth Annual Hug-a-Tree/Kiss-a-Fish Youth Adventure is making a splash on May 19-21 and will be held at its new location on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation at Lake Tombigee Campgrounds, 1427 Campground Road in Livingston. "You come out on Friday; you set up your tents," said Brenda Myers, Community and Children's Impact Center executive director. "We let the gates open at 10 o'clock Friday, then at one o'clock the regular fishing tournament will start. Then we feed everybody at six o'clock that evening. Then we have a band. So there's something for everybody." The weekend adventure will include a fishing tournament for children and adults, which begins on Friday, May 19 and ends at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 21. A special needs fishing tournament will also he held this year, Myers said. Currently, 20 spots are open for that tournament. Jayson Baldridge, with Blanket Top Theater, will be back this year with Movie in the Woods. Entertainers Kenny Cooper, Shayne Porter and Brand, Richard Savercool and Jay Berglan are scheduled to perform on Saturday, May 20 to entertain crowds. Other guests coming out include: Ronald McDonald, five time World Champion Boxer Booker T., Roger Rivers of "Swamp People," Boxer Termite Watkins, Texan cheerleaders and Myer's close friend Reggie Johnson to name a few. "It's a three-day event, filled full of fun, education, learning skills, entertainment, anti-bullying session with celebrities, kayak races, performances by Aztec dancers, reptile companies, participation by federal, state and local agencies," Myers said. "Collaboration of businesses and vendors come out to make this event spectacular for these families. If you have never been, you don't want to miss out on this event." For the first time this year, the Harlem Globetrotters will entertain families during the weekend trip, Myers said, which was made possible by a $3,000 donation by Alabama- Coushatta Tribal Council. "I'm very blessed that we have celebrities that care enough about this event," she said. "It's not bad getting two celebrities, but when you get a handful of them that come to East Texas because of one reason: because of the children, because I've asked them to come, and they care about what we're doing. That means more to me than you'll ever know." Fourteen-year-old Dyanne Vasquez, who has attended each year, said she is excited to attend again this year and is looking forward to the fishing tournament. "It's really fun. I'm usually in the lake or fishing. I do the fishing tournament every time," she said. "You get to meet new people, and usually the same people come every year. You get to be outdoors. Usually when I'm there I'm not even on my phone, because there are so many activities to do." Vasquez's 13-year-old sister Angel Vasquez said she enjoyed holding the snakes and visiting the reptiles during previous years, but is excited to swim this year. "It brings kids together without having their phones and electronics," she said. Volunteer James Wall has been involved in the program since he was eight-years-old, now Myers assists each year with hosting the events. He said seeing the reaction on the children's faces is the best part year after year. "At the end of the day, one girl said, 'I didn't catch all those fish alone, Ms. Brenda. I want to share my trophy,'" he said. "That really was the most wow moment. Something like that happens every single year." The free event began several years ago when Myers overheard a father tell his young son he couldn't take him fishing because of the high cost of bait, gas and food. She knew immediately she wanted to find a way to help poverty-stricken families to be able to experience outdoor activities. She contacted Impact board of directors and the annual event was born. "The first year we took 79 kids. Last year we took 1,682 participants. This year we're already at 1,426 people," Myers said. "That is not even including all of the tribal members; over 200 of them will be out there. So it has exceeded all of my expectations. I never dreamed it would be this big." Myers said it is "absolutely amazing" to see the organization continue to grow after 13 years and to see the good it has done in the community. "I never, ever in a million years thought this journey was going to take me here from having nothing, to people donating plastic to build a small haunted house, to now people donating thousands of dollars to our Hug a Tree/Kiss a Fish, because they believe in what we are doing," she said. "We are a very small organization, but we are a very powerful organization. It makes my heart warm to know people believe in us, that they are supporting a cause that is very much needed here in our community." To register for Hug-a-Tree/ Kiss-a-Fish, text Myers at 936- 499-2632 with your information to be added to the guest list by May 7. For more information on Impact, visit impactcenter.vpweb. com.


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