HUDSON FALLS — At first, Tonya Smith-Barrows thought it was just talk between a couple of kids.
Jacob Barrows, her 9-year-old son, knew the softball tournament Smith-Barrows ran last year raised $4,500 for research into Chiari Malformation Type 1, a condition that led to his brain surgery last February.
He wanted to do more, and since fishing has been his outlet for years, he and 6-year-old cousin Abby DeVito started discussing holding a fishing tournament to raise more money for research into the disease.
The event, which will be held March 1 at Million Dollar Beach in Lake George, is called “Jake’s Fishing For A Cure” and will have competitions for both adults and children.
“At first we thought it was just talk, but after a couple of weeks he was still talking about it and had some major plans,” Smith-Barrows said. “He planned the prizes, who was working it, and Jacob wanted to teach other kids how to ice fish.”
He also wants to raise money for research on the little-known condition that plagued him with speech issues, chronic ear infections, vision problems and crippling headaches for much of his life. “It’s rare, and it was very hard to get a diagnosis,” Smith-Barrows said.
Finally, when he was 8, he was diagnosed with Chiari, a structural defect in the brain, specifically in the cerebellum, which causes those symptoms.
Smith-Barrows said there is no cure for the condition, but noted that last year’s brain surgery helped alleviate much of the pain.
“The difference has been amazing,” Smith-Barrows said. “He went from having four or five crippling headaches a week to having had just a couple since the surgery.”
She is not surprised he chose a fishing tournament as his fundraising outlet.
“Jacob has gone through so much, but fishing was always his outlet. His pain never kept him from fishing,” she said.
Once she realized how serious he was, she called her former husband, Jamey, and also got immediate help from Jacob’s 12-year-old brother Brennan.
Smith-Barrows said she was pleased with the quick response for donations from Nemec’s Sport Shop, Fish307.com, Arca Ink, Washburn Hill Construction, Timberline Builders, Super Smoke ‘n Save and Cooley’s Ice Cream.
“Jacob is in his glory every time I tell him something else came through,” she said. “We’re getting all kinds of help.”
Registration will be at 6 a.m. and fishing starts at 7 a.m. For adults, the entry fee $10. Children 14 and under will fish for free. All measurements will be done by 3 p.m., and all proceeds will go to Chiari research.
Smith-Barrows is already proud of her son.
“I don’t think he’s going to realize until that day the impact he’s going to make,” she said.