On Saturday morning, a fishing crew like no other will launch from Dana Point Harbor. About 30 children and young adults with developmental disabilities will cast off, courtesy of the nonprofit volunteer group Fish for Life.
Unlike the last 17 trips, this time a mermaid will make a star appearance.
Since 2009, Jim Holden has brought people with disabilities (particularly Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy) aboard a chartered fishing boat. An avid fisher himself, Holden said conversations with a friend's disabled son got the ball rolling:
"I felt like God came out of the clouds
and said, 'Here you go, here's your calling. Go take a boatload,'" he said. "My big drive behind this is serving the Big Guy,
Holden spends much of his free time finding sponsors, both individuals and companies, and holding fundraisers like Texas hold 'em poker with former NFL players.
On Saturday, 110 people will be on the 95-foot fishing boat, including disabled kids and their chaperones.
The big surprise planned for this trip is Catalina, the mermaid played by Virginia Hankins.
Catalina will appear off the coast near the Ritz Carlton in the early afternoon, and later in the day she'll return for photos.
"This is kind of like an Easter
Bunny/Santa Claus thing. Half of the kids aren't going to believe it for a
minute," Holden said.
The other half, though, will be blown away, he said.