Following a night of fishing at Owen Park, 12-year-old Will Wadsworth and his mother were readying themselves for a morning fishing trip when they realized Will’s tackle box wasn’t in the trunk of their car.
The family is from Essex, but comes to the Island every other weekend to fish. When they went back to Owen Park to retrieve the tackle box, they noticed it had been largely picked clean, and were devastated to know that Will’s hand-chosen lures and other gear had been stolen (including his Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby hat and pin).
Will’s mother, Tracy, reached out to Derby officials, and asked if they would be willing to post about the lost gear, and attempt to locate it.
According to Tracy, Derby committee member Wilson Kerr reached out right away and said he would be willing to help them.
“He [Kerr] wanted to help, and even followed up after we went home to Essex,” Tracy said. “He kept checking in, and even sent us screengrabs of some people who were posting lures for sale online that could have been the ones we lost. They didn’t end up being his, but to go to that extent to do that sort of legwork was incredibly touching.”
After some time and no sign of the missing gear, the Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters Association and the Derby committee decided to take it upon themselves to surprise Will with a gift.
“Wilson said he and some members of the committee wanted to meet Will, so we went back to Owen Park, and did some fishing, and there they were, walking down the dock with big bags,” Tracy said.
The bags were filled with lures, a headlamp, and a Derby hat and pin with Will’s Derby registration number on it.
Tracy called the effort by Island anglers “so touching and incredibly thoughtful.”
“William is a complete stranger to them, and we don’t even live on the Island, so we were super-grateful to them,” she said. “Owen Park is Will’s favorite place to fish.”
She also thanked the Island community for the outpouring of support online, where the original Facebook post garnered almost 700 reactions and dozens of shares through the Derby page.
“It’s such a sweet story, especially right now when everyone has had so much taken away from them. It’s wonderful to know there is a community that is supportive, where you can really escape all the negative going on right now,” Tracy said. “We had to stay six feet away from them when they gave Will the gear, but I wanted to give them all a hug for what they did.”
Will said he was quite surprised when his mother and he were fishing at Owen Park and saw the Derby officials walking down the dock.
“I saw two people walking down the dock with three huge bags filled with stuff. They got down there and were asking around to see If I was on the dock. I was surprised to hear people asking about me, but then they came over and said they were with the Derby,” Will said.
When Will opened the bag, he saw lures galore — more than enough to replace the ones he lost — and a brand-new Derby hat and pin, along with other Derby swag.
“It was all the gear and more that I was missing, so it was really cool,” Will said. He said he has been fishing since he was 6 years old, and loves to fish the Derby.
Derby committee chairman Joe El-Deiry said Kerr reached out to him and chairperson for the M.V. Surfcasters scholarship program, Dave Nash, and asked if there was any way they could get Will a replacement hat and pin.
El-Deiry said Nash helps out with the M.V. Surfcasters’ annual tackle sale headed by Surfcasters’ president Donald Scarpone in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School parking lot, and there was a good amount of gear left over from the sale.
“So the folks with the M.V. Surfcasters immediately said they would help put together a fantastic package,” El-Deiry said. “They left it at the weigh station, and Wilson coordinated with William’s mom, then we met down at Owen Park when they were fishing.”
El-Deiry said it’s kids like Will that make the Derby so special, and acts of kindness like this that encapsulate the Derby mission. “William was such a nice kid, this story really needs to be about him and his mom,” El-Deiry said. “Good things happen to good people, and he was the kindest kid that I can remember meeting. He was so grateful that all these folks went out of their way to do that for him. It made my day to be a part of it, and I thank Wilson and the Surfcasters. I don’t deserve the praise for this; it was the entire committee and the Surfcasters who deserve the praise.”