By ALEXANDREA BAILEY
“I can, I did, and I will again” is the motto of the nation’s first ever fishing boat customized specifically so that people with disabilities can experience the joys of the ocean and fishing as independently as possible. It resides and was born right here on South Padre Island.
Sturdy, stable and featuring specially heightened rails, large doors, ramps, wheelchair ties, a hand wash shower, an open floor plan, and even a power lift chair operated by its occupant that lowers into the water, the ICan covers all the bases. This boat is the brain child of Shane Wilson, but would not be possible without the assistance and expertise of captain Shane Lippoldt. Wilson purchased a Tritoon, a triple-hull pontoon boat, and the two of them, and partnered with engineers Russell Davidson and Bill Hoenes, spent a year remolding it with accessibility in mind.
Wilson, an avid angler for the majority of his life, was born in Alexandria, Indiana, and raised in central Indiana. He got married in 1994, and two years later, he and his wife relocated to South Padre Island full time. Wilson, now retired, is a former elementary and junior high instructor, as well as administrator. In 2007, he created Fishing’s Future.
Fishing’s Future, a 501 c3 corporation with the four-part mission of strengthening family bonds, reconnecting families to nature, protecting, conserving, and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources by teaching environmental stewardship, and increasing participation in recreational angling, was the brainchild of Wilson while he was the director of the alternative school for Point Isabel ISD.
“The kids that were getting kicked out of school were good kids. I kept thinking, ‘Why are they coming out here?’ Well, they were making bad decisions. Over a 12-year period, I realized that their bad decisions were because a lot of them had a lack of parental involvement,” explained Wilson.
His goal was to keep families together forever and he believed fishing was the perfect means because while growing up he had bonded with his own family the same way. “There’s no better quality time than being on the water,” Wilson exclaimed. He began teaching families how to spend time together fishing in order to promote strong family relations. “I am not a kid organization. I am a family organization,” said Wilson. Since Fishing’s Future came into fruition in 2007, it has grown to over 60 chapters across America.
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