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HANDICAPPED STUDENTS REEL IN DAY OF FUN

There is something contagious in Susan Steadstad's smile. She likes to smile, and she likes to tell you her name.

"Hi I'm Susan. What's your name?" she says. Susan was at Payson Lakes on Wednesday with 39 other handicapped students learning how to catch fish."I'm gonna catch a real big fish, one this big," she said, holding her arms open as wide as they can go. Her secret to catching the big one is to talk to the fish.

"Here trout. Come here, trout. I'm gonna eat you, fish," she yelled out to the lake.

For one second her fishing line caught at the bottom of the lake and she screamed with excitement. She didn't care if she had the fish. She was just happy to be out fishing.

Gene Ekenstam of the Tooele Wildlife Federation was almost as excited as Susan with the day of fishing, sponsored by the Uinta National Forest.

"This is an opportunity for these people to be a part of the outdoors, something that we take for granted," he said.

This is the second year the fishing day has taken place and it is something that Ekenstam looks forward to.

"I hope to see this become a program throughout the entire state of Utah," he said. The idea came from a television program Ekenstam watched out of Arkansas.

"I saw them take a bunch of these kids out on a river and thought, `If they can do it in Arkansas, we can do it in Utah,' " he said. There was some time involved in organizing the event. Sponsors had to be collected for the lunch, and fishing licenses and paperwork had to be filled out to get approval from the Forest Service, but Ekenstam said the effort is all worth it just to see the smiles on the kids' faces when they catch a fish.

"You couldn't beat that smile off their faces with an ax. You stick around and fish with one of these kids and you'll want to take them home with you," he said.

The students come from the Oquirrh Hills School in Tooele and from Timp Industries in Lindon.

Thomas R. Spencer, an instructor at Timp Industries, said the trip was important to the students as part of their social development.

"Anything they do is learning, even things that you and I do almost as a reflex," he said.

Students were each given a fishing pole, a license and a volunteer to make sure their hooks were baited right and they were able to cast into the lake without getting caught on anything.

Last year, only one student didn't catch a fish and Butch, a second year veteran of the event, caught two. He was looking forward to getting another fish this year, but it was hard to concentrate on fish when Woodsy Owl and Smokey the Bear kept walking by giving him a thumbs up sign.