Spend five minutes with Eli Pereira and you’d be hard pressed to describe him as anything but a man on a mission, even at the age of 12.
The Magothy River Middle School student held court at his community marina in Arnold on June 19 as he explained the rules for Fish for a Wish – the fishing tournament he planned, organized and executed for the second year in a row to honor his former teacher, Terri Ball.
“In third grade, my teacher fell to cancer and I wanted to honor her memory, so I started looking for foundations to help people like her,” Eli said. “In my search, I found the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and ever since I was young, I’ve loved fishing, and I’ve always wanted to host something and be a leader of something, so I put all of them together, and I came up with the Fish for a Wish fishing tournament.”
And fish, host and lead he did. After hauling over the supplies and assisting with fisher-kid check-in, Eli took to the stage — a picnic table — to welcome his participants and explain the rules: the fishing would take place for an hour, with a horn announcing the start and finish, and participants were to flag down a referee (who donned orange headbands or wristbands for easy identification) to measure and record the statistics of the catch before it was released back into the Magothy River. This scoring was crucial as Eli had thoughtfully chosen and purchased prizes for just about every category imaginable.
In the end, every participant caught at least one fish and took home a prize, with 22 total fish caught in the hour.
As for the fundraising, he met that goal, too. Eli had originally aimed for $1,000 in donations. He ended up raising $1,335, and thanks to a matching donation from an anonymous business, Eli will present the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a $2,670 donation – blowing his initial goal, and last year’s number, out of the water.
“He has lots of very big ideas,” said Anna Pereira, Eli’s mom. “It just makes my heart happy. As a mom, that’s what you want your kids to do is do good things and give back, so I think it’s kind of amazing. Basically, I just let him go, and whatever his idea is, we try to help him figure out how to make it happen.”
“It makes me feel really, really happy. I’ve just always wanted to help people,” Eli said, explaining that it’s a trait he believes he gets from his dad, Prem, who spent this Father’s Day assisting with the tournament, a proud smile never leaving his face.
When considering his future, Eli hopes to be a blacksmith or commercial fisherman when he grows up. One thing he knows for sure – he intends to host Fish for a Wish for years to come.
“[He] is already mentioning little things he wants to try and do differently and add for next year,” Anna said.
For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit www.wish.org.
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