Updated: 05/31/2014 6:10 PM
Created: 05/31/2014 5:20 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Every spring a fleet of anglers launch onto Island Lake to hook walleye and fight ALS. The devastating and fatal illness, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, impacts hundreds in the region, and the tournament raises money to help find a cure, rain or shine.
It was another rainy Saturday for the Kolar Toyota ALS Walleye Tournament, but that didn't stop over 300 anglers from diving in for a shot at the prize money. Dozens of volunteers were getting wet too, and they all said the cause is more important than their comfort.
“I didn't come here thinking I was actually going to win. Just the fact that we're giving money to the charity that's what makes it all good,” Brian Vander Lee said. “We had a lot of fun. It was a lot nicer than last year. Last year was the same weather, but it was a lot colder. We'll do it again next year and hopefully the sun will come out that time so we can get some tanning in as well.”
He said this is the second year he entered the tournament, and the volunteers make it easy to just enjoy the fishing.
“The help is unbelievable, getting your boat on and off, the meals they give you,” Vander Lee said.
Volunteer Adam Krause said that keeps everyone going despite the gloomy weather.
“It's always a good day. You can't complain too much when you're fishing, whether you catch the biggest one or not. It's a day of fishing for a good cause so it can't be too bad,” Krause said.
He has helped reel in boats at the landing for a decade, but he was modest about spending hours in the cold water every year.
“I think we do the easy part out here. There are a lot of people that work hard running around all year to get things organized. We kind of do the manual labor and that's alright,” Krause said.
Organizer Blake Kolquist said the tournament started 19 years ago after his uncle was diagnosed with ALS. He said the disease takes a huge physical toll.
“The disease affects the body, not the mind. There's no effect on the mind at all, but it just slowly wears down and breaks down the muscles in your body,” Kolquist said.
The tournament has raised more than $2 million over the last 18 years. The group was still counting donations, but at least $96,000 was tallied this year. Kolquist said that money helps support 500 people with ALS in Minnesota and the Dakotas, and every fish caught continues the search for a cure.
“To get that support from the community, the volunteers, especially the fisherman. They keep showing up, and they're all here for the right reason: to make a difference for ALS,” Kolquist said.
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