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A group of us in the fishing community have banded together to produce two fundraisers this fall to help the Hanecak family.
By Toby Lapinski  |  August 29, 2017

To see how outdoorsmen, hunters and anglers, are often the first to step up in support of those in need, one need only look to the “Cajun Navy” coming to the aid of those affected in Texas and Louisiana by Hurricane Harvey. While donations from throughout the Northeast continue flowing into the Gulf states following the devastating flood waters, closer to home anglers from Maine to Maryland and beyond will be actively fishing to help a young Fisherman family member!

Back in early July, Owen Hanecak (the son of my very good friend and Field Editor for The Fisherman Magazine, John Hanecak) was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL.) Owen was about 14 months old at the time of the diagnosis, and since I am not a doctor and I do not play one on television, I looked ALL up on WebMD and found the following:

ALL is a type of leukemia that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow, the soft inner part of bones. It develops from cells called lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell central to the immune system, or from lymphoblasts, an immature type of lymphocyte.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to other organs, such as the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. But it does not normally produce tumors as do many types of cancer. It is an acute type of leukemia, which means it can progress quickly. Without treatment, it can be fatal within a few months.

For the first 6 or so weeks following the diagnosis, Owen was being treated at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, CT. Both John and his wife, Karyn, “lived” at the hospital along with Owen for this time with both missing a good amount of work. Karyn plans to take about a year off from work as a teacher since Owen will require regular doctor’s visits roughly twice per week for the next 3.5 years or so. And while insurance covers a good portion of the treatment, there will be some major expenses along the way above and beyond standard medical costs. In light of this, a group of us in the fishing community have banded together to produce two fundraisers this fall to help the Hanecak family.

First up, Dave Anderson is going to be running a catch and release striped bass surf fishing tournament with all of the proceeds going towards Owen’s treatment expenses. The tournament is set to run from September 22 through October 21 and will follow the rules that Dave established through his tournaments. There are no boundaries dictating where an angler can or cannot fish, as long as migratory stripers swim in your chosen waters and you hold all necessary permits to make fishing in said location legal, fish caught in that area are eligible. So this means that anywhere that migratory striped bass can be found, from Canada to Florida and everywhere in between and beyond is open for anglers to participate. An angler’s combined total length of their five longest fish will comprise their score at the end of the tournament, with the angler compiling the greatest length being deemed the winner. A complete look at all of the rules can be found at

The cost to participate in the tournament is just $30, and all participants in the tournament will receive free entry into the Awards Ceremony and Fundraiser (see below) being held in Clinton, CT on October 21. The hope is that this can become an annual event so that we can continue to assist throughout all of Owen’s treatment. If you’d like additional information on the tournament, or if you’d like to sign up, please visit

Immediately following the tournament there will be a fundraiser/awards presentation which is being produced by the combined efforts of Greg McNamara, Jared Clairmont, Chris Blouin, Dave Anderson, Toby Lapinski and members of the Connecticut Surfcasters Association.

On Saturday, October 21, at the Clinton (CT) Town Hall, we will have a full afternoon of seminars, raffles, auctions, food and more with all proceeds going to benefit Owen’s treatment. Festivities kick-off at noon and will conclude around 4:30 p.m. A $10 donation will be requested at the door, but be sure to bring some extra cash as we already have a lengthy list of items that will be up for grabs in the raffles and silent auctions.

There will be two big-time speakers—one discussing surf fishing and the other talking about boat fishing—so there will be something for everyone regardless of your fishing preferences. On the boat side, Capt. Jack Sprengel has agreed to speak. Capt. Jack is a well-rounded angler targeting everything from tuna to carp. He is an engaging speaker and is sure to deliver an awesome presentation!

The Town Hall has a large theatre upstairs where the presentations will take place, and then downstairs we will have some awesome catered food as well as all of the items that will be offered up for auction and raffles.

We have launched an event page on Facebook to track the details of this event, announce raffle and auction items and just generally keep attendees up to speed as to what we have planned for the day. The event can be found here.

On August 16, Owen, John and Karyn left the hospital and returned to their home as Owen has been making substantial improvements in his health. His condition was considered “in remission” by the 29th day of treatment and he was cleared shortly thereafter, a huge relief for all of us! There is still a long road ahead for the Hanecak family, but the outlook is positive and Owen is a strong little kid who will undoubtedly overcome this bump in the road.

If you’d like to make a donation either directly to the Hanecak family, or with raffle/auction items for the fundraiser, please contact Toby Lapinski at for more information on how to donate.

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