Donations still key to keeping Children's Trout Derby going

Community donations are still key to keeping the annual Children's Trout Derby going.
Hundreds of children and their families gathered at the upper and lower duck ponds in Milford on a recent Saturday for what has become a multi-generational family event for some of them.
Cathy Savoie attended the fishing event with her children and grandchildren. Abby Savoie, 9, had caught a brook trout, and her friend Olivia Vargovchik, 8, had a rainbow trout.
Despite their young age, both had a lot to say about the annual children’s trout derby, sponsored by the Milford Striped Bass Club.
“People can come and learn how to fish with their parents, and they can cast in the casting contest,” said Olivia, who is already a seasoned fisherman.
She’s a regular at the annual derby, as is Abbey, who said she only missed one year.
“It’s a family tradition,” said her mother, Mary, who explained that her husband has been attending the derby since he was a child.
Cathy Savoie could attest to that, being that mother, now a grandmother, accompanying Savoie children to the derby.
When Cathy’s children attended the derby a generation ago, it would be at least a two-day event. They would have sleep-overs, and they and their friends would eat pizza and hunt for bait the night before, in preparation for getting up with the sun to head to the ponds.
Cathy would bring sandwiches, coffee and hot chocolate, something she still does now.
Fishing next to the Savoies was Nick DiGioia, who said he started attending the derby when he was seven years old, and now he brings his son, Joey, who is seven.
“It’s a great event for the kids,” DiGioia said.
This was the 47th year for the Milford Children's Trout Derby, so it’s easy to see how it has touched the lives of several generations of anglers.
The derby is for all children ages 15 years and younger, and prizes are awarded for the largest trout in four categories, plus there is a casting contest that sends youngsters home with prizes.
The popular event almost came to an end several years ago when the club announced it was having trouble funding it.
Club members persevered and enough donations came in to keep the derby alive, and then the Devon Rotary Club promised to help fund the event for years to come.
The club pledged at least $5,000 a year. The derby costs about $9,000, and those funds pay for trout to stock the Milford ponds, trophies, portable bathrooms, and other expenses.

"It is important to receive donations because it helps us to keep the derby going," said Jennifer Lalond, co-chairman of the annual derby. "There are a lot of expenses that come with running it.

"As you can see by the photos that are taken, the kids love when this derby arrives. I have a nine-year-old nephew who can't wait until May for the derby. He loves to catch fish," Lalond continued. "When they catch a fish and run up with it to have it measured, the excitement on there faces is just awesome."

Other groups also donate to keep the derby going. They include: Miska Construction; Milford Oyster Festival; Diane Curl; Thomas & Nancy Dautel; Ed Curl; Milford Boat Works; Milford Land Title; Wace Fabricating; Beachwood Florist; Smith & Sefick Funeral Home; Funaro Insurance; Walter Russo, DMD; Bray Custom Rods; Greg & Christine Smith; Berkley Exteriors; Ray Oliver; Milford Animal Hospital; Courtney Honda; Ann Feeley; Cody White Funeral Home; Thomas Spring; Barbara Lisman; Stephen & Candace Simon; Shop Rite; Mager & Mager; Charles Crape, DMD; Aldrario’s Restaurant; Eagle Leasing; Karin & Richard May; Milford Bank; Modern Heating & AC; Derosier Moving & Storage; Nicholson Associates; The Savoie Family; City of Milford; Milford Car Quest; Dulin Automotive; Dennis Auto Parts; In Memory Marc Savoie; Traynor Collision; Jim Percival “Smiling Spirit Yoga”; Alternate Universe; Subway Headquarters; Stop & Shop; Blue Sky Diner; Robert Tomasko; Apple & Eve Juices; Spencers Marina; Southern CT Tackle; Harborview Bait & Tackle; Jimmy O’s Bait & Tackle; Bobby J’s; Tom Hill Septic Services; Post Parkway Services; Richard Charney; Williams Agency; Larry Williams.
One person who attends the derby nearly every year was there again this year: Bob Mahoney, who started the derby 45 years ago with local businessman Pete Hebert.
Mahoney said he grew up in Milford, and one day many years ago he was driving by the pond and thought it was a shame that no one was fishing there. So he went to Pete Hebert at Hebert Jewelers and they each agreed to put up $50 to stock the pond and organize the fishing day for children.
With 120 fish released into the Milford waters, the two men expected a couple of dozen kids that first year. Milford’s daily newspaper, the Milford Citizen, had run a small announcement about it — nothing huge, Mahoney said.
Still, 300 children showed up, and that was the start of it all.
Mahoney doesn't live in Milford anymore, but he drives 275 miles each year to sit on the sidelines at the duck pond and watch the children fish. The only time he didn't show up was when he was in the Army.
He is happy the tradition did not end.
“It does my heart good to see the kids out here having fun,” he said.
For information on supporting the derby, email 
Donations can be sent to the Milford Children's Trout Derby c/o Milford Striped Bass Club, PO Box 103, Milford, CT 06460