Lakeland, FL resident William “Big Will” Dunn has helped countless children find peace through fishing on the weekends.

Everyone needs a role model, someone to look up to. It’s challenging for children to learn life lessons with no one to show them the way. One man in Florida is doing all he can to help children in his community.

William Dunn is a longtime resident of Lakeland, Florida and a father of three. He grew up with a love for fishing. As a kid, his dad would take him out on the lake where time seemed to slow down.

While fishing, he was able to find peace and learn how to be patient, shaping his adult life. “I’m the youngest of six and I always had a great relationship with my dad,” William said, “I still carry the lessons he taught me. He told me that fishing isn’t about what you catch – it’s about the memories you make.”

Finding Peace Through Fishing

15 years ago, when William was in his mid-forties, he noticed his 8-year-old neighbour storming in and out of his house. The boy would express anger regularly. “I wondered what was going on in his life, so one day, I decided to ask him,” William said, “He told me that he didn’t have a father, and I realized there might be something I could do for him.”

With permission from the boy’s mother, William took him fishing one Saturday afternoon. Just like William, the boy found peace on the lake. Week after week, they would go fishing and the boy began inviting his friends. 

After 10 years of helping kids with out fathers by teaching them how to fish, William started a nonprofit called Take a Kid Fishing Inc. Since 2018, a small group of volunteers have introduced over 2,500 kids (mostly without father figures) to fishing. Many of them have found peace just like William and his neighbour 15 years ago.

Through private and public donations, the nonprofit is able to take up to 20 kids at a time fishing on the weekends. William’s dedication to the youth has caught the attention of his community.

“Kids can sense that he’s genuine,” said Tom Pichette, a former youth pastor in the area, “They’ve been dealt some hard cards and they climb aboard with some tough stories. But Will always accepts them as they are.”

Healing on the Water

One Lakeland mom, Terra Pryor, was worried about her three children after their father’s passing. Her oldest son Jayden was trying to be strong for everyone else in his family. “I was wondering what to do to help him,” Terra said, “and then I learned about Take a Kid Fishing.” 

Jayden loved fishing ever since he was little and William gave him the opportunity to continue that love. “It’s wonderful to see that love for fishing continue,” Terra said, “But more than that, it’s the relationships they’re building and the healing that is happening when they’re out on the water.”

Going fishing with William gave Jayden a place to clear his mind. After he became a regular fisherman, his grades in school improved as well! 

William feels honoured to help the kids in his community. He found love for an activity and a way to mentor those who need it most. “There’s nothing like feeling that first tug on the line and seeing a kid light up with a smile,” he said. “I feel lucky to witness that every weekend.”