Finn’s fish wish comes true

Islanders rally to help 15-year-old make a big catch.

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Pay it forward just might be Martha’s Vineyard’s motto. While the entire nation was learning about our Island’s innate generosity last week as we rallied around the immigrants in need, another such endeavor was quietly going on. This one involved 15-year-old Finn Sears, who was here this weekend because of an Island couple, Mike Cassidy and Debbie Grant, who had reached out to the Make a Wish Foundation to see if any of the children wanted to go fishing.

The couple was motivated by their experience when their 7-year-old daughter Samantha had cancer in 2007. 

“So many people on this Island helped us as well as the Make a Wish Foundation. We always looked for ways to give back,” Grant said. Cassidy, who has been on the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Fishing Derby committee for many years, contacted Make a Wish to see if there was anyone who fit the bill. Suddenly, Finn’s wish was to come through and the Derby signed on to help sponsor. 

Finn’s mother Lauren Sears explains the origin of her son’s wish: “Four years ago, when he got out of the hospital, he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t walk. When Make a Wish came to ask him for his special wish he said, ‘I’d really love to catch a big fish.’” Then COVID hit and Finn ended up having to wait … and wait again for the opportunity. 

Finn and his mother and sister Hailie arrived early Friday and were out on the water by mid-morning. Beka and Joe El-Deiry, past chairman and executive committee member of the Derby, took them out on their boat until the early evening.  Finn’s biggest catch of the day, a bonito — weighing 3.78 pounds — won him a second-place daily pin. The bonito wasn’t the only fish Finn caught either, but rather just one among many. Cassidy said, “The kid was in fish heaven.” Joe added, “I have taken a lot of kids out in the past but, honestly, I’ve got to say Finn was the most enthusiastic fisher person I’ve ever had. He was laser-focused, watching both rods nonstop.”

But there was more to come. In typical Island fashion, the word spread, and Saturday morning Chris Fotta from Vineyard Vines welcomed them in for a shopping spree. Then it was back to the water with two Derby committee members —Cooper Gilkes of Coop’s Bait and Tackle, and Jake Maciel also from Coop’s — who got everyone out to the beach on Chappaquiddick.

It turned into quite a memorable day. Although fishing all his life, Finn caught his biggest fish to date, hooking a 165-pound brown shark. Everyone was astounded by his tenacity as it took 45 minutes to reel it in and one of his hands has scrapes and wounds to show it.

“His hand was bleeding. We asked, ‘Do you want to take a break?’ He insists, ‘No, no, I got it’,” Cassidy said. “After forty-five minutes we get the fish onto the beach and Finn says, ‘Let’s get the line back out there’.”

Finn explained that his love of fishing originated when he was 6 or 7 years old, and his father caught a 100-pound fish. Lauren confirmed, “Finn has been fishing since he was little, but he wanted to catch a big one.”

Before they left for the ferry on Sunday, everyone Finn had touched gathered to watch Cassidy give him his second-place daily pin for the bonito and attach it to the cap Finn was proudly sporting. However, ever the fisherman, when asked about his best experience in the last few days, Finn replied, “Getting the shark was my favorite part because of the blisters on my hand.”

Lauren, reflecting on the weekend, said, “It was the kindness and how they just took Finn in. Everyone was so wonderful and patient in working with him and helping him. I was so proud of him. And everyone also was so excited too to have Finn have this experience. I feel like they’re all part of our family now. I can’t wait to see them again.”

It seems Finn agrees, for as everyone was saying goodbye, Finn wanted to know when the family could come back … and everyone assured him he would be very warmly welcomed next year. In parting, Grant told Finn, “The wish turned out not just to be for you. It was all our wish, too.”

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