MILTON — Jason Barry and Joe Phillips have been friends since kindergarten and have always had a passion for fishing and helping others. Their passions combined when three years ago they began putting on small bass tournaments and, according to Barry, their efforts progressed to large benefits to help people in the community.
"We both have been members of the bass clubs for years," Barry said, "and it just kind of went to doing these."
Barry said last year they held a tournament for a boy killed in a tractor accident and successfully raised $24,000 in three days.
"These tournaments have become a passion of ours and we thoroughly enjoy being able to help people in need," he said. "This tournament [has] most definitely been the biggest one on Blackwater River to date."
Barry said he started contacting businesses on Facebook asking for donations for the event, and received gifts from businesses including Avalon Bait and Tackle and Scott's Outdoors.
"Facebook has definitely been our biggest help," he said.
The two friends decided to hold this fishing tournament to help raise money for 2-year-old Jase Murphy, who has been battling B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Barry said the proceeds from the tournament will be donated to the family to help offset the cost of treatment.
This tournament is a special one, Barry said, because Murphy is Phillips' cousin.
"I went to school with [the boy's] aunt and uncle," Barry said. "His grandad called us and said he was thinking about putting together a tournament to help raise money. We just kind of took off with it."
According to Barry, 63 boats entered the tournament, and an estimated 123 people. Participants and supporters attending the tournament wore shirts with with logos "#jasestrong," and "Jake fights cancer, what's your super power?" printed on them.
Finishing in first place were Donnie Foster and Lee Columm who weighed in at 10.68 pounds. Barry said all competitors who won cash prizes donated their awards back to the Murphy family to help with treatment costs.
On her Facebook page, Amanda Murphy, Jase's mother said, "We will never be able to put into words our gratitude for everything that has been done for him and us! thank you for all the support and love!"
Barry said he plans to hold a tournament every year to help someone in the community, and appreciates all the support he continues to get.
"Thank you," he said. "Every time we do one of these it gets bigger and the support is phenomenal."