DESTIN — What would it be like to live near the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village but never get to go fishing?
That’s the reality for many disabled, terminally ill or underprivileged kids — and something Jonathan Holley is working to change.
Holley is the CEO and president of Destin-based business, Angelfish Babysitting and Nanny Services. His parents started the business in 2007 and Holley and his fiancee took it over in 2017. After hiring some special-needs certified nannies, he realized there wasn’t anything available for children with disabilities when it came to fishing.
“I’m a diehard fisherman,” Holley said. “That’s what I love to do, that’s my hobby. I wanted to find a way to incorporate that into helping children out. There’s really not anything for these kids that are in wheelchairs or that kind of stuff, to get out there and experience this. This is my dream.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Holley started Angelfish’n — a nonprofit that provides fishing trips for children with special needs, terminal illnesses or from underprivileged communities — but didn't get a response.
“It didn’t get the response I initially hoped for until a couple weeks ago,” he said.
That’s when Angelfish’n got its first charity recipient, 41-year-old Lisa Bova-Beard, who has Stage 4 colon cancer and six months to live.
“Even though she isn’t a child I think this is a great way to show what Angelfish’n is all about,” Holley said “She made a bucket list and one of the things she wanted to do was deep-sea fishing, so we’re going to help her fulfill that dream.”
The charity is still in the process of finalizing all the paperwork to make it an official nonprofit organization, but Holley hopes to eventually raise enough money to buy their own handicap-accessible boat.
“We haven’t really found anything like this so there’s nothing to draw from,” he said. “We want to make it as safe as possible so working with the Coast Guard and getting all those legalities in place is my job for the next few months.”
There is fishing gear tailored for people with disabilities, such as fishing harnesses that would allow a person in a wheelchair to hold a fishing rod at their chest, instead of strapping a fishing belt around their waist.
Throughout this whole process, Holley and his team have constantly sought the advice and thoughts from parents of children with disabilities so they know exactly what will be the best fit.
And if a parent doesn’t feel comfortable taking their child on a fishing boat, Holley wants to offer a surf fishing experience as well.
Ultimately, Holley just wants to give the kids some memories that will last a lifetime.
“Some of my most memorable moments are with my parents and grandfather out fishing,” he said. “I’d catch a 12-inch snapper and to me it felt like the biggest fish in the world.”
For more information about Angelfish’n or to donate, visit the Angelfish Babysitting and Nanny Services website at www.angelfishservices.com.