WATCH | Fishing Derby: HSBOR hosts 26th Special Olympics event

Students get an early start Wednesday morning in the 26th Annual Special Olympics Fishing Derby held at Family Park. The event, hosted by the Hot Springs Board of Realtors, was attended by around 300 area students in grades K-12. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record

The Hot Springs Board of Realtors hosted its 26th Annual Special Olympics Fishing Derby Wednesday at Family Park, attended by roughly 300 students in grades K-12 in the Hot Springs area.

The event benefits Special Olympics and is an opportunity for children with disabilities in area schools to be part of a fun-filled day of fishing, prizes, lunch, and outdoor activities with friends.

Event organizer Rachel Mundy, a local Realtor with Trademark Real Estate, said students in special needs classes from as far away as the Arkadelphia School District attended the derby, to reel in their catch from 400 channel catfish stocked by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

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"The Arkansas Realtors have partnered with Special Olympics since 1986, so we raise a lot of funds for Special Olympics," she said. "But I tell people, this is not a fundraiser, it's a fun-raiser. So we have a good time."

Prizes are given to every child for such contests as largest fish, smallest fish, longest whiskers, and funniest looking fish. The Lake Hamilton Bass-N-Wolves school fishing team conducts a professional weigh in as guests enjoy hot dogs, chips, snow cones, fruit and other snacks. The Game and Fish supplies certificates for each of the students.

Mundy, who earlier this month received HSBOR's 2023 Realtor of the Year award, said it is a good way to give back to the community while making everyone smile. Along with local real estate companies, several affiliates such as banks, title companies, and insurance companies come and bring fun things like cotton candy machines and popcorn machines.

"I tell you what, it is the most exciting event that we have. We look forward all year long. I mean, everybody that walks away from this day walks away with a smile. It is really exciting to see these kids feel so good. Everybody wins something," she said.

Realtors give back to their community in numerous ways, she noted. HSBOR was named Organization of the Year by The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce in 2022.

"There's a lot more than selling real estate to our job," she said. "We're really invested in our community, and to be able to give back, just to spend time with kids. ... Many of these kids have never fished before. Some of them have been here for years.

"As soon as school starts back, they start to ask their teachers, 'When is the fishing derby?' You know, 'What day do we get to go?' And so it just lights them up, which lights us up, and we really encourage our membership to get out here."

This is not hard to do because "everybody really wants to be here for this day," she said.

"It's a lot of fun. There's no pressure of raising funds, it's a 'fun-raiser,' is what we say. And it really is, it's about having a good time with kids."

  photo  A student helps another student reel in a catfish on Wednesday at the Special Olympics Fishing Derby at Family Park. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  A member of the Lake Hamilton Bass-N-Wolves school fishing team weighs a fish during the professional weighin at the 26th Annual Special Olympics Fishing Derby at Family Park. - Photo by Donald Cross of The Sentinel-Record