Tyler Schlosser is using a weekend fishing tournament on Lake Sakakawea to remember a childhood friend who died from cancer and also raise money for research into the disease that killed him.
The 33-year-old electrical lineman from Dickinson has organized the annual Fishin’ for the Cure tournament for six years, with help from numerous family members from North Dakota and Montana.
The event packages competitive walleye and northern fishing with family activities and also raises money for Solving Kids’ Cancer, a New York-based nonprofit that funds clinical research aiming to find treatments and cures for the deadliest childhood cancers.
“There’s so much that people can do, but this is just one little thing that we like to do in North Dakota,” Schlosser said.
The Solving Kids' Cancer website credits Fishin’ for the Cure with helping fund clinical trials in such areas as immunotherapy and nanotechnology.
"Running our nonprofit in the center of the hustle and bustle in New York City, we can't imagine people turning out and being generous in a fundraising event centered on fishing," co-founder Scott Kennedy told The Bismarck Tribune. "What a brilliant concept because it's all about community and passion."
This year’s tournament is Saturday on Beulah Bay from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a rules meeting at 7 p.m. Friday. The headquarters is the Eagle Pavilion. In an average year the tournament draws about 200 people and about 50 boats, with varying numbers of anglers per boat.
Fishin’ for the Cure was founded in Montana in 2008 by Matthew Siegle, a childhood friend of Schlosser’s in Glendive, Mont., who died of a rare type of bone cancer. He was diagnosed two weeks before his high school graduation in 2003 and died in 2010.
“He called me and told me there was nothing more they could do for him. They put him in hospice, and we lost him,” Schlosser said.
“Once I moved to North Dakota, I started this (tournament), to keep his legacy going,” he said.
Schlosser, his wife, Katie, his two children and various relatives and family friends do all the organizing. The event includes more than just fishing – there’s a dinner, silent auction, and activities including helicopter and boat rides. The tournament also sponsors two families with sick children each year, chosen with the help of groups and programs such as Make-A-Wish and Brave the Shave.
“You don’t have to fish the tournament to partake in all the activities,” Schlosser said.
The event draws mostly amateur anglers, “more or less people coming to support the cause,” he said. “People even fish from pontoons. They just come out and want to have a good time.”
They also want to help. In its first five years the tournament has raised nearly $150,000 for cancer research, with most anglers who win money donating it back to the cause.
“People are just very generous,” Schlosser said.
Fishin’ for the Cure also has had tournaments in Montana and Arizona. The goal is to get one organized in every state, and to use them to help cure childhood cancers.
“The last (clinical) trial, they had 10 kids do the trial, and four of them lived,” Schlosser said. It's hard not to focus on the deaths, he said, but “If you look at it in the big picture, we saved four lives, rather than lost six.”