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Student's nonprofit aids special-needs anglers

October 2, 2013 : By Joshua Tiprigan/Liberty University News Service

Liberty Unviersity students volunteer with a nonprofit organization that makes it possible for those with special needs in Virginia to enjoy the sport of fishing.
Student volunteers with Special Anglers are (left to right, standing) Kevin Tobias, Kurt Tobias, and co-founder Sander Smith; and (left to right, seated) Kyle Sikes and Zach Riley.

A new nonprofit organization founded by a Liberty University student is making it possible for those with special needs in Virginia to enjoy the sport of fishing.

Freshman Sander Smith, an electrical engineering major, started Special Anglers this year, a nonprofit organization that supports special-needs community members in public fishing tournaments.

He said his inspiration came from seeing his younger brother, Travis, compete and win the Youth Angler award in 2012.

"The organization is personally important to me because, having a brother on the Autism spectrum, it warms my heart to see events like this made available to individuals with special needs," he said.

The group presents Travis Awards, named in honor of his brother, to its participants during competitions, as well as cash prizes.

Five Liberty students attended the program's first competition in August, the Lancaster County Little League Spanish Mackerel Tournament in Kilmarnock, Va.

Senior Kevin Tobias and juniors Kurt Tobias, Zach Riley, and Kyle Sikes aided the contestants with tracking devices. Special Anglers provided fishing equipment for the contestants as well as two boats.

The contestants included three of Kevin Tobias' cousins, who he said were his motivation to join the program.

"The Special Anglers organization is so special to me, knowing that we can give these kids the experience of a lifetime fishing, where most would not have the resources to do so normally," Kevin Tobias said. "Fishing is such a great way to take in God's creation, and for these kids to have that chance and to experience the adrenaline and surprises of fishing is a stellar cause in and of itself."

Smith said his work with Special Anglers comes from Christ’s example of ministry.

"Jesus repeatedly commands us to love one another regardless of what we expect in return," he said. "During His life on Earth, His ministry was not to the whole and the healthy. He ministered to the cripples, the lepers, the Samaritans, and the lost. Following His example, and doing things to include and care for these individuals, should be second nature to us as believers."