Deputy Game Warden Amelia Frederic shows Bonnie Beckwith her 19-inch rainbow trout.

You have to hand it to the caregivers at Pinnacle Health and Rehab in Canton and Rumford Community Home, both in Maine: They know how to hold a coming-out party.

In the facilities’ first big event since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they helped hold an outing that could be talked about for years. Especially if your name is Bonnie Beckwith.

She’s the Pinnacle resident who caught a 19-inch rainbow trout to win the biggest-fish prize at the Warren & Shirley Farwell Catch & Release Day. (Go ahead and size up 19 inches by holding your hands the appropriate distance apart. Yes, that’s big.)

Beckwith was among more than 40 residents who spent about four hours at the fishing derby and picnic, enjoying an afternoon out like no other in 2020 or 2021 — or possibly before.

Sizing up the winner.

“She hadn’t been fishing in five or 10 years,” noted Michelle Corriveau, an activity assistant in Pinnacle’s Life Enrichment Department, about Beckwith, a former fishing enthusiast. “She was very excited.”

So were a pair of impressed game wardens, and other volunteers, who helped with casting and a long-handled net, when needed.

Some of the residents fished, some just watched and some went primarily for the grilled hamburgers, hotdogs and side dishes donated by local businesses, Corriveau noted. The event was started about three years ago by local businessman Roger White in memory of a local couple who were his landlords several decades ago. White had planned on taking Warren Farwell fishing but it never happened due to the latter’s failing health. The derby, presented annually for seniors and long-term care residents, has become White’s way of honoring the couple.

How to get it done

While outsiders presented the showcase and victuals for the event, it was still up to facility staff to logistically make it happen. And that they did with gusto.

“We take whoever would like to go. There’s every variety, in wheelchairs and not,” Corriveau explained. “We just treat it like you would if your family was going on a vacation or trip.”

It took about two weeks of solid planning to pull off the mid-June fishing derby and picnic. Since it was only about 20 minutes away, patients were transported in two flights in a facility Kia and a van that could accommodate wheelchairs. Making sure vehicles that otherwise might be used to take patients to medical or other appointments are available is a critical step, she emphasized.

Then, it comes down to recruiting enough staff and volunteers, and also packing proper meds, including insulin, and other necessary supplies. Luckily, Corriveau and two other colleagues are certified to give meds, so there’s no concern about pulling others from the floor for that, she explained.

The veteran Pinnacle staff had built up experience with smaller, closer fishing outings and various other trips such as to picnics or the beach. 

Other tips for peers who might like to pull off similar outings? Start planning early enough and try to have a cheerful, resourceful team like Pinnacle’s.

“Make sure no one gets too close to the water,” she quickly added. “And have your eyes open all the time. Even if you’re sitting next to someone fishing, you have to keep an eye on somebody having a hamburger. We get back and say, ‘Great — everybody’s home safe. We’re all good!’ ”

The planning and game-day stress can’t stop staff from making the effort. The emotional payoff is too great, she added.

“We’ve been doing things like this for many years. If you have the opportunity to do something like this with the residents, it would be awesome.”

Even if you’re not the one catching a 19-inch rainbow trout (but maybe especially so if you are).