Evansville Courier & Press
EVANSVILLE — As the Black Lives Matter protests heightened during last summer’s nationwide civil unrest, Eddie Gill IV asked himself how he could impact communities he’s involved in.
He’s a lifelong fisherman, adventurer and outdoors enthusiast, so he spends most of his free time on his boat. But being a 20-year-old African American, he said he often receives strange looks when he shares his passion for the outdoors.
That’s why he’s created “Journey for a Cause,” a mission to promote a more diverse and inclusive space within the boating and fishing communities.
Gill will spend the next 10 days boating 700 miles from Evansville to Navarre Beach, Florida. He’ll depart from the Riverfront and Dress Plaza at 10 a.m. Tuesday after teaching fishing to local kids and receiving a formal sendoff.
“The biggest thing for us is trying to bring people together and create a space where everybody feels welcome,” Gill said.
He’s making the trip with two of his friends and they will make 10 stops along the way to engage with the various communities, particularly by hosting youth events.
The Carmel, Indiana, native recently completed his junior year at Grace College, where he plays basketball and studies environmental science. His father is a former NBA guard and current Indiana Pacers studio analyst for Bally Sports Indiana.
He’s passionate about diversifying the outdoors. Gill has cited a National Geographic statistic that states communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to live in nature-deprived places.
Gill’s maternal grandfather taught him fishing during a trip to Utah when he was 3 years old. It’s provided tremendous joy to his life ever since.
“I have so much going on with school and basketball, so fishing is an outlet for me, and I really use it as a tool to escape,” he said. “It’s helped me with my mental health and is something I’ve utilized to create a bubble for me whenever I need to get away or get out.”
He isn’t detracted by those who think it’s unusual for a person who looks like him to care so much about fishing.
“The whole stigma and stereotypes that people of color don’t do this or that it’s not for them couldn’t be more false,” Gill said. “I’ve never run into anyone within the fishing community who’s had anything but friendly words.”
He’s been planning this trip for an entire year, but the idea of making it has been a goal for much longer. One of his uncles had a coworker who once boated from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, so that’s the real inspiration for why he chose this route to make an impact.
It helps to have a sponsorship, too.
The president of Grace College put Gill in contact with a friend of his who’s the CEO of Correct Craft, which owns Parker Boats. And, well, after building a rapport, Parker Boats awarded him a $137,000 boat sponsorship – they’ll be journeying in the 2520XLD Offshore Sport Cabin Boat.
“I’m extremely grateful to them for that,” Gill said.
This trip is still a fundraiser, though.
Their goal is to raise $20,000. All donations exceeding the costs for fuel, dockage, lodging, community engagement and incidentals will be given to various nonprofit organizations that have similar missions. They’ve already raised nearly $7,000 at www.gofundme.com/f/journey-for-a-cause.
“The whole experience overall has been hectic and there are a lot of moving pieces to it all, but it’s been great and very rewarding,” Gill said.
He’ll be joined by Clay Wright, a junior at Vanderbilt University who grew up in Carmel and graduated from Cathedral High School, as well as Justin Shupe, a Pendleton Heights High School graduate who attends Ball State University.