The Kindness of Strangers

Photo by Laurie Murphy of Dick Dow’s

Fishing in the Knee Deep Club’s Hybrid Striped Bass Contest was something Ryan Kirwan, 9, of Upper Greenwood Lake, NJ, had hoped to do with his dad, Dennis Kirwan. Dennis was an active member of the Knee Deep Club, attending the regular meetings and entering many of the KDC sponsored tournaments and contests. Tragically, Dennis died suddenly of a heart attack in January of this year. Lorraine Kirwan, Ryan’s mom, was going to do everything possible to see to it that her son was going to be able to participate in the contest.

"The Hybrid Striper Contest was something that ‘the boys’ were going to do together this summer", she said.

Lorraine told her nephew Craig Sanborn, of Stanhope, about her son’s desire to fish the KDC Striper contest. Craig immediately thought of his co-worker, Jeff Good and his son Hunter, 11, of Oak Ridge. Craig knew that they would be fishing the striper contest and decided to put Ryan, Jeff and Hunter in touch.

"We’re going out! He can come with us." Jeff Good said without hesitation.

Jeff Good: “The bass contests can be pretty competitive with the prizes and cash, and nobody wants to take a total stranger, let alone a kid, out on his boat. I said to myself, ‘forget the tournament - let him come out on our boat.’ “

"I was a little nervous sending my son out on the lake at 5 AM with someone I didn’t really know." said Lorraine Kirwan, "but when Mr. Good sent me the photo of the first fish that Ryan caught at 6:30 that morning I knew that I had found the right guys. Jeff really took Ryan under his wing and showed him the ropes."

Ryan was fishing with a couple of Lake Hopatcong’s best fishermen. Hunter Good holds the Knee Deep Club’s record in the youth category for a 5 lb. 5 oz. large mouth bass that he caught in 2009 at age 8. He has also placed in 1st through 3rd place in seven of the club’s junior division categories this year.

This Hybrid Striped Bass Contest was Ryan’s second fishing tournament ever. He hauled in a 4 lb. 6 oz. striper, 3 calico, 3 catfish and a pickerel “He was very excited, he had never caught a striper or that many fish before.” said his mom, Lorraine.

"If it had been just Hunter and me out fishing we would have moved to try and catch more stripers, but we stayed in the same spot because Ryan was catching fish" said Jeff. "Hunter understood and I thanked him after we dropped Ryan off. ‘You did the right thing’, I told him.

"This was the best day of fishing of my whole life!" exclaimed Ryan after bringing his fish into Dick Dow’s to be weighed and measured.

Jeff Good: “Ryan is a good kid. His parents brought him up right. He really enjoyed himself. I’ve got all of his info on my refrigerator and I intend to call him again to go out fishing with us. “

Lorraine Kirwan: “Ryan had a great time, and fishing with the Knee Deep Club is something we’ll continue to do. I don’t fish myself, but I may be learning soon. You’ve got to do what you can to make your kid happy.” 

Hats off to you, Jeff and Hunter Good. Sometimes the kindness of strangers can make all the difference in a kid’s life.

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