First Annual Family Fishing Derby Organized by Lazy J's Tackle & Hope Harbor

By: Tom Fink | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: June 2022

Hope Harbor Executive Director Dirk O’Donnell (from left), Marketing Director Stephanie Steward, and Lazy J’s Tackle owner Jeff Armbrister.

Hope Harbor Executive Director Dirk O’Donnell (from left), Marketing Director Stephanie Steward, and Lazy J’s Tackle owner Jeff Armbrister.

For more than 60 years, Hope Harbor has helped children and their families by giving them the tools and support they need to move forward in life.

This summer, Hope Harbor will be handing out a different kind of tool – a fishing pole – at the Family Fishing Derby.

“Hope Harbor has long served families in the area, and we wanted to bring something fun, something that families could do together, do outside and do to build memories together, and we felt a fishing derby would be the ideal event for this,” said Hope Harbor Executive Director Dirk O’Donnell.

Slated for June 25, this free event will provide up to 500 local children with free Zebco rod and reel combos, free tackle packs, and free live bait for the young anglers in the family.

The meeting point for the day will be at 8 a.m. the parking lot at Cedar Point Church in Claremore, where children will receive their fishing equipment. After this, they may go to Claremore Lake, where volunteers will assist them for a morning of fun and fishing.

“After kids enjoy a morning of fishing, they can come back to the (Cedar Point Church) parking lot, where there will be a weigh-in,” O’Donnell said. “The plan is to provide a professional fishing tournament experience for area young people – one that’s coinciding with the crappie tournament that Lazy J is putting on that day – we’ll have the scales, the kids will get to come upon the stage, and get their fish weighed, and get their picture taken.”

O’Donnell said prizes will be awarded in 12 categories, such as biggest fish, smallest fish, most species caught, top fishermen in boys and girls divisions, and others.

Also, after returning to the church parking lot, lunch will be served to fishing derby participants – making it literally a day of loaves and fishes – and a children’s play area with inflatables, bounce houses, and other games and activities will be set up for kids to enjoy.

Free snow cones will be provided to children.

This fishing derby is free and open to all children “primarily under 16.”

O’Donnell, himself a lifetime fisherman, said this is an event all at Hope Harbor felt is “very much worth doing” as a means to create the opportunity for families to create meaningful memories together.

“From Hope Harbor’s perspective, this (event) is a way for us to serve the community that we’re in, and our co-sponsor, Lazy J’s Tackle, is owned by a man named Jeff Armbrister, who also has a huge heart for children,” he said.

Armbrister concurred.

“I’m super excited to be helping Hope Harbor in this,” Armbrister said. “Anything to help promote youth, education and spiritual health is a great cause, and we should never take for granted an opportunity for family members to grow closer to one another.”

Unlike other Hope Harbor-sponsored community events, O’Donnell said the fishing derby is by no means a fundraiser, but rather a “thank you” to the community.

“We’re so appreciative of this community – they’re so supportive of us, of our thrift store in downtown Claremore,” he said. “This (event) is simply a way for us to ‘give back’ (to the community) and to redouble our efforts to prioritize the relationships between kids and their families and provide opportunities for those relationships to be strengthened.”

Fishing derby attendees should meet at the parking lot at 8 a.m. Saturday, June 25, at Cedar Point Church, 1660 N Lynn Riggs Blvd. (SH66) in Claremore.

Sponsorship is available and volunteers are still needed and appreciated.

To register for the first annual Family Fishing Derby, visit

Tax-deductible donations may be sent by mail to: Hope Harbor, P.O. Box 1047, Claremore, OK, 74018.

For more information about Hope Harbor, call 918-343-0003 or email eat1@eau1eav1eaw1.

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