We selected Wallace from the provided lineup of strong, able-bodied goldfish. Bought with two dollar bills and 32 quarters, he struck the Cardinal & Cream team as the most enthusiastic racer, and we named him after our faculty adviser’s favorite author, David Foster Wallace, for an extra boost of luck. As he swam circles in his tiny dwelling, we wondered if he had what it took.
Wallace and I had seen another racer, The Flash, get thoroughly disoriented in the first race, allowing Archibald to speed to the finish and win by an incredible margin. The pressure was high.
My heart thumped in my chest as I took my place behind the teetering fish-racing track. Wallace hovered above the water in a clear plastic cup, waiting to be poured into his lane by one of my teammates. My hands clenched around the flimsy blue water gun.
The water gun signal started the race and Wallace was dumped into his lane. I carefully aimed my water gun behind the fish, hoping to propel him toward the finish line. The crowd thundered as teammates and by-standers spurred their fish on to greatness. Wallace swam for the finish line, leaving Tars in the dust.
The first annual Fishy 500 was hosted by the newly formed Union Exchange Club to raise money for the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Club president, Thomas Wilson, sophomore political science and economics major, took the half-time show to share about the club’s vision to facilitate the work of the center.
To help fund the center, Union’s Exchange Club decided to hold a fundraiser. Fish racing, while unorthodox, yielded a substantial crowd. Every fish sponsorship went directly to a donation for the Carl Perkins Center.
“I have been able to see how much the Exchange Club does for these kids who have experienced something so terrible,” said Kaylene Portell, a senior social work major and intern at the Carl Perkins Center. “I know that the new collegiate chapter will help to make an even greater impact.”
The races got closer and the front-runners emerged quickly. Only the strongest fish would be able to pull off a victory in every round.
In the final round, our Wallace pulled ahead of Trevor at the last second to clinch the gold. Trevor took home the second place prize. Archibald won third. Wallace never lost.
Cameras flashed and Wallace and I stood for pictures with our team. We took the time to congratulate the other racers and claim our prize–a spacious tank for Wallace’s home. I felt like a proud coach. I knew he would have dumped a cooler of Gatorade on me if his fins had been strong enough.
Today I learned that if you teach someone to fish they might be able to eat, but if you give someone a fish, that fish might just take home the gold.