The Kenai River Classic has always been about more than raising money to fund projects to protect and enhance the mighty Kenai for future generations, it's been about people, people that do out of the ordinary things for the river.
To recognize those individuals, the Ted Stevens award was created as a special salute to people for their work with the river. Traditionally the Senator presents the award personally at the end of the Classic. This year the 10th Anniversary Classic Ted Stevens award went to Bix Bonnie, an individual who has been working to protect the Kenai River in a myriad of ways for more than three decades. Most recently, Bonnie created a program to re-furbish used fishing gear and give the rods and reels to kids that are in need of one to go fishing. Known as the Hooked on Fishing program, over 200 reconditioned and new rods have been distributed at the Kenai River Festival.
"The idea came to me that a kid that has incentive and recognition does not tend to get caught up in drugs and alcohol, and what better way to get recognition than fishing. I've been hooked on fishing since I was five years old, so we decided to give the "Hooked on Fishing" idea a try and it's really become a great success thanks to the many donations from manufacturers," said Bonnie. Initially the program started by reconditioning old fishing guide rods and reels and gear that was just left hanging in garages, but now that the program has gained recognition, major manufactures such as Dawi, Lamaglass, and Shimano are donating new top grade equipment to be given away through the program.
The father of the Kenai River Classic U.S. Senator Ted Stevens presented a few of the Hooked on Fishing rods and reels to youngsters at the Classic last week. Four-year-old Lochlan Quines wouldn't let his new rod out of his hand and was very willing to tell media that he was, "Gonna catch a fish with my new rod." Almost twelve-year-old Cassie Kendall also received a new rod from Senator Stevens, and while a veteran fisher, he said he was eager to try and land his first King Salmon on the Kenai River.
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