Every year the Jim Thorpe American Legion Post, along with the Germantown Grove Club, hosts a fishing derby for special education children. And estimated 200 youngsters take part in the event, and everyone has a great time, from the participants to the volunteers who work the derby, and the sponsors.

Some of the trout caught are real beauties - trophy sized lunkers that give kids memories that will last a lifetime.

They are raised with meticulous care aat the Germantown Grove Club trout hatchery in Jim Thorpe.

But there's a problem this year. Many of the fish are dying, and no one's sure why.

So many have died (the estimate is 500) that the derby is in danger of not being held this year.

Club members have been in contact with state officials regarding the problem, and they have taken some measures themselves to save the remaining fish. They put tubes containing soda ash into the pond which feeds the hatcher, hoping it increases the pH level.

More than a month ago the state was in to check on the hatchery and everything seemed fine. And then this happened.

The derby, scheduled for May, has been held since the 1950s and has become an annual institution for the legion and Grove Club members. They spend the year caring for the fish and readying the grounds for the influx of children.

It's no surprise that this week, fellow legion members from another community have come to the rescue. American Legion Post 123 of Lansford has come to the aid of the upcoming Germantown Grove Club Fishing Derby for Special Needs Students with a donation of $500 to help get the derby back on track. The Lansford group read about the fish kill in The TIMES NEWS and decided to do something about it.

But more help is needed.

If you care about kids and you want to help you can call Bob Marzen, second vice commander of the Jim Thorpe American Legion at (570) 325-2161, Legion Commandeer Cliff Glendhill at (215) 982-1309, or finance officer Frank Sebelin at (570) 325-2219, or the Legion Post at (570) 325-4756.

More than 1,500 fish are used in the derby every year, and that comes at no small cost. Because of the fish deaths, additional fish will have to be purchased from the state if the annual event is to be continued.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com