Professional bass angler John Crews arrives at this week’s Bassmaster Elite Series event at Lake Guntersville, Ala., with more on his mind than just a tournament win. He also has his sights set on a win for autism, and he’s been preparing equally hard for it.
During Wednesday’s official registration, Crews will ask all Elite Series pro angler to accept one of his autism “puzzle” flags to fly from their boats’ light poles at the early morning takeoffs. He’ll also be requesting that the anglers autograph the flags and return them at tournament’s end to be auctioned off later as a fundraiser to benefit a non-profit group focused on the disability.
The flags are courtesy of Crews, Valley Fashions fishing apparel and angler/autism advocate Eli Delany. Delany and Crews met a few years ago.
“Eli introduced me to autism through his son Luke and I’ve had a much greater appreciation for how common and diverse the disability is ever since,” Crews said. “Fishing has been important in their relationship and Eli’s been touting that through his own autism awareness efforts. I knew that’s how I could help too.”
Crews will wear a specially made autism awareness jersey that is similar to the flag’s design throughout his Guntersville competition days. He will later auction off the jersey and autographed flags on eBay. Proceeds will be donated to an autism support group of Crews’ choosing.
The fact that April is National Autism Awareness Month is partially responsible for the timing of Crews’ effort at this B.A.S.S. Elite event. The rest is because Crews is simply paying attention.
Delany’s web site, MyLittleBuddysBoat.com, says autism is the fastest growing disability in the United States. It cites a 2014 Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that approximately 1 in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum. It also estimates that 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the U.S. This new estimate is roughly 30 percent higher than previous estimates reported in 2012 of 1 in 88 children.
“I know I personally make new connections to people with autism at seemingly every turn I make,” Crews said. “Whatever the reason behind the estimated increases, we all need to know more about the disability and either living with it or around it. Like Eli, I’m able to use fishing as a platform to raise awareness and point to some good resources for more information. At the very least, I hope every angler will support Eli’s ‘Fishin’ with a Mission’ decal program.”