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Catching Dreams Charters turns wishing into fishing for young cancer patients

In the song “Wish I was Fishing” by Too Slim and the Taildraggers, the bluesy tune helps you envision special times on the water as a kid. Here in Western New York, in a land bordered by water, it only makes sense that fishing is an important way of life for many. One of those people is Capt. Ned Librock of Pendleton. His theme song could be that catchy melody by Too Slim.

“I grew up fishing on the Niagara River,” Librock said. “I was a river rat. It’s in my blood. I started off giving away charters to veterans groups, targeting individuals with PTSD and other afflictions.”

For the men and women on those angling adventures, it was a kind of therapy. It returned some normalcy to their lives. It allowed them to forget the past and focus on the present. He let the fish take over and do the rest.

Four years ago, though, he was introduced to the Courage of Carly Fund (founded by Carly Collard Cottone, who wanted to make a difference for other young cancer patients) through Roswell after talking with Catholic Health Care Services. Librock decided to form Catching Dreams Charters, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that would focus on kids and young adults that suffer from cancer or blood disorders.

“I have been a successful businessman in Western New York through opportunity and hard work,” says Librock. “I have always felt the need to give back to the community and this is how I decided to do so. My exposure to area fishing guides, coupled with my business sense, sent me to where I am today.”

Slowly, a network is being established to allow for angling opportunities as he turns “wishing into fishing” for boys and girls.

On Monday morning, 7-year-old twins Connor and Aiden Frost of Blasdell were on the water in Buffalo Harbor, catching whatever fish would bite their baits. Along for the ride were their grandparents, Patti and Juan Hernandez of Blasdell.

Captain Ned Librock, center back, poses with Patti Hernandez, left, Juan Hernandez, right, and Aiden and Connor Frost as they share a fishing adventure. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

“This is amazing,” Patti Hernandez said. “We never knew what to expect. I give (Librock) so much credit. It’s something that the kids will never forget.”

Just catching a fish is a thrill. Whether it’s a bass or walleye, sheepshead or rock bass, it doesn’t matter. It’s about making memories and letting nature’s bountiful resources take over.

“I’ve found that the trips are just as important for family as it is the patient,” Librock said. “I’ve had three generations of a family out more than once. We are seeing repeat guests taking advantage of this unique therapy. We would like to expand what we are offering, eventually seeing up to 100 kids a year on the water right here.”

Of course, there are some limitations. The fishing season for boats probably extends from May to September, depending on the weather. Librock also would like to secure more guides to help when they have availability in their schedules. Right now, he is running 8 to 12 kids a month, with trips taking place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, if the weather allows.

Librock also would like to secure sponsorships to help offset some of the costs that have been involved with the program, especially as a little incentive for more captains to participate if they knew that their expenses would be covered for things like gas, bait or “better snacks” as one survey person put it after a morning trip on the water. If that’s the only criticism, that should be easily overcome.

Here's a nice smallmouth bass caught by Aiden and Connor Frost in Buffalo Harbor. (Bill Hilts Jr./Buffalo News)

Currently, Catching Dreams has three major sponsors: Anchor Marine of Grand Island, Hanes Supply and Dynabrade Power Tools. There’s room for plenty more. Individuals and company sponsors can donate at Catching Dreams Charters also has a Facebook page by the same name.

“The Courage of Carly Fund has partnered with U.S. Coast Guard captain Librock and Catching Dreams Charters in order to provide this unique fishing experience to Western New York pediatric patients and their families,” Courage of Carly Fund Coordinator Megan Crawford said. “These special opportunities allow kids, who are battling cancer and blood disorders, to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives, find respite from the challenges of their treatment and spend time learning and enjoying a new activity.”

“Thanks to Catching Dreams Charters and Ned Librock, we are able to continue Carly’s legacy, providing hope and an extra dose of happiness to children and teens diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders. This is one more outlet to ensure pediatric patients and their families will never have to face their disease alone.”

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It’s much more than reeling in a fish on a fishing trip, too. Librock is trying to teach kids how to fish on their own. He passes along angling knowledge, as well as ethical behavior and sportsmanship. He teaches the different species of fish and nature in general. Sometimes it’s about making a special connection with the family, while other times, it is just giving parents a break to go have breakfast or lunch.

Most trips stay away from the high traffic of the weekend. However, it’s not all carved in stone. If Librock needs to be flexible due to unique circumstances, that is not a problem. He will do whatever it takes to accomplish his mission of creating meaningful moments and memories with fishing trips for kids and young adults. He can tailor any trip to the needs of the people.

“My range of kids and young adults has been from 5 years of age to 29 years old, both male and female," Librock said. "Currently, I am near capacity for the season at about 35 trips. We are preparing for expansion later this year and next year with a select group of highly professional guides."

In the meantime, Librock will keep turning wishing into fishing one cast at a time.

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