MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) — The Keli Wagner Lady Angler Tournament is kicking off Saturday in Morehead City. It is in honor of Wagner, who lost her battle with cancer in 2008.

According to the KWLA website, “The KWLA tournament is named in honor of the late wife of Big Rock board member, Casey Wagner, who lost her battle with cancer in 2008. Keli was enthusiastic about the success of this tournament, and she played a vital role in having the proceeds donated to the cancer clinic.” 

Dozens of boats will be in the 25th year of the tournament. Each boat with a different reason for being out on the water. For the crew of the Captain Stacy, it’s living life to the fullest because some of the crew knows what it’s like to fight cancer.

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“I’ve never been deep sea fishing before. So, I’m super excited,” said Sarah Hartshorn, a cancer survivor.

Fishing in the KWLA means a little more to cancer survivors.

“It’s overwhelming,” said cancer survivor Karen Nolan. “Cancer is such a hard thing, not for just the patient, but for the entire family.

Captain Stacy (Contributed photo)

“I have four boys. It’s been a long journey, all the different things that go along with having cancer.”

It’s why it makes this year’s event even more special for the crew competing on the Captain Stacy this weekend. The KWLA was supposed to be held on Saturday. Due to anticipated bad weather, participants are now able to choose whether they want to fish on Saturday or Sunday.

Captain Stacy will head out to sea on Sunday, giving caregivers and cancer survivors the opportunity to fish. 

“When I got the invitation, I really just couldn’t even believe it,” Hartshorn said. “It’s truly an opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve fought some health challenges to be able to be here even just this week.

“It was just such a good motivation to me to fight through those things to be able to come and fish with everybody else.”

Leslie Davis is the Captain of the Captain Stacy.

“We hope each one has a chance to fight a fish. Hope there’s enough of them fish biting, that they do. And we hope to catch something big enough so they can win,” Davis said.

The experience is all made possible by the Delta Health Foundation. The founder and creator of Delta Health Foundation, Dr. Jill Hendra, and the Director of the Delta Health Foundation, Loree Long, came up with the idea to give 35 people a chance to take part. 

Delta Health is a not-for-profit organization. The organization promotes “wellness education through a balanced integration of conventional and complementary methods.” Their focus is “care for the caregiver.”

They offer all types of services including healthy cooking classes, wellness education, holistic healing and more.

“The Lord puts the people that we need in our path with intelligence and health care and Delta, for this fabulous donation for us to go and have a great day as survivors,” Nolan said.

The mission is personal for this not-for-profit agency and for the founder and creator of Delta Health, Dr. Jill Hendra.

“Delta Health started 22 years ago when my own aunt did not self-diagnose a tumor in her breast, and she died of breast cancer,” Hendra said. “It disseminated. I came into a small inheritance. And I thought I don’t need a new car; I’m going to do something good with this, Aunt Bert!”

22 years later, Delta Health continues to be dedicated to making an impact on others. The crew on the Captain Stacy will feel the impact this weekend.

“It’s truly the opportunity of a lifetime,” Hartshorn said.

No matter the outcome. “I’m extremely blessed to go out on this boat, with my other survivors, my new friends and family and build these memories that we can share from now until forever. As long as we’re here, that’s going to be my story,” Nolan said.

“I’m going to tell everybody about it. And we’re praying for the biggest fish we can catch.”

These survivors know they’ve already won. 

“Proud of myself and my family and especially of my health care team at Carteret Health Care. I’ve received the best care,” Hartshorn said.

“Build these memories that we can share from now until forever,” Nolan said. “As long as we’re here. That’s going to be my story. I’m going to tell everyone about it.

“Live every day, spread happiness and love. Because there’s not enough. And if everybody did it, could you imagine this place. I mean, really, everybody as one.”

The Delta Health Foundation hopes they can make this an annual event. To learn more about Delta Health you can visit their website.