Three years into a program that pairs local sportsmen with a Pennsylvania nursing home, residents and staff have fallen hook, line and sinker for the carp and the camaraderie.

When the fishermen first reached out to LaurelWood Care Center, activities director Sharon Mavrodis expected the Fish-O-Rama to be a one-time traipse to the water’s edge. Instead, it has blossomed into a regular opportunity for fellowship — one that attracts more volunteers each year.

The Greater Ferndale Sportsmens Club stocks the pond the day before and provides fishing poles and bait. The nursing home rents a fleet of vans and extra wheelchairs to support residents who might not be able to navigate the uneven terrain using walkers.

In addition to the 20-minute ride to the lake and the fishing itself, there is also a picnic-style lunch to enjoy. If the fish aren’t jumping, dragonflies are buzzing and rabbits are snuffling through the grass.

As much as the residents enjoy the festivities, the staff also look forward to a day that takes the focus off of ADLs and puts it on meaningful moments.

“I just sit back and point at the fish and watch the interactions,” Mavrodis told McKnight’s. “Being outside of their usual roles, how wonderful that is for making connections.”

Many of the repeat volunteers now ask after residents from previous years or sit on the lakeshore with them.

Some residents reminisced about days spent fishing with relatives in their youth; others focused on reeling in a big one so they’d have a new fish tale to tell.

In all, 41 residents from LaurelWood Care Center and Amber Springs at LaurelWood attended the 2019 event. They included long-term and short-stay rehab patients, as well as residents from a memory care unit.

Club members and nursing home staff helped residents bait hooks, cast their lines and reel in when needed.

“Seeing people out here enjoying the outdoors and lighting up when they catch a fish — that’s why we do this,” Gene Hudson, director of the Greater Ferndale Sportsmens Club board, told the local newspaper.