Fishing, once a means to survive for thousands of years, has transformed into a traditional craft that offers more than just a good catch. What better way to spend a sunny Saturday morning than to take a group of 35 children fishing, helping them to appreciate the lifelong values found within the hobby of fishing. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, United Way of Porter County, and Dr. Larry McAfee from McAfee Animal Hospital united to create and sponsor Take a Kid Fishing, hoping to ignite a new passion for the children involved. The event took place on Dr. McAfee’s property on August 11.
Rebecca Weber, a volunteer engagement manager from United Way, spoke about the event and its participants.
“We have 35 kids from Boys & Girls Club here to fish,” Weber said. “A mixture of Valparaiso, Portage, and South Haven [Clubs.] We let the Clubs choose the children who are participating today.”
The outing provides an opportunity for children who may not have fished in their entire lives and gives them a deeper understanding while learning the craft. The children tested their knowledge about fishing terms and different types of fish. Those who answered correctly were given shirts with different fish printed on them, one being “the McAfish.”
“Fishing can teach a lot of important lessons, such as patience, attention to detail, and leadership,” Weber said. “Some kids may not catch a fish, but that aspect of understanding failure is also important.”
“This started with Mike Blyth, who had the first one 22 years ago; he and I are fishing freaks,” McAfee said. “Twenty years ago, he coerced me into helping. Then United Way and Boys & Girls Club found out about it and wanted to be involved.”
McAfee said the day is just as important to the adults involved as it is to the children.
“We have 37 mentors here today—they truly look forward to this, maybe even more than the kids do,” McAfee said. “A lot of the kids here come from a single-parent household, and may never get this opportunity to catch a little bluegill. It’s all about giving back.”
The outing included awards that applauded enthusiasm and sportsmanship, which circled back to the idea that fishing evolves from meaningful place.
Chris Geiger, League Director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana, explained why this type of excursion is necessary for children in today’s electronically-driven world.
“This is different: it gives them the opportunity to be outside,” Geiger said. “Kids nowadays are on their electronics 24/7, indoors on the video games. I’m more familiar to the times when I was a kid; we were always outside, on our bikes—we didn’t even want to come in for lunch!”
Aaron Ingram, a veteran Take a Kid Fishing mentor, has volunteered his time and craft for the last few outings.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a ton of time outdoors as a kid, so any chance I have to pass that along, I take the opportunity,” Ingram said.
When asked about the future of this annual event, McAfee laughed.
“We’ve had 22 annual events, and hopefully we can continue on for another 22!” McAfee said.
Take A Kid Fishing Day has proven successful for the last 22 years and continues to teach the lessons that our world needs to remember amidst the technological advances that have captivated us. If you have the chance, take a moment to step outside, look around, and breathe it all in. Or go find a friend and go fishing!