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Union Volunteers Take Minnesota Kids Ice Fishing

January 19, 2020 in Fishing, General, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

Volunteer Mike Rodger (center) of Cement Masons Local 633 showed a pair of young participants the finer points of ice fishing tactics.

Dire predictions of an apocalyptic blizzard didn’t stop more than 75 young anglers from celebrating winter with local labor union volunteers at the Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Day on Chisago Lake Saturday, January 18.

A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 9 and a coalition of other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of ice fishing.

As it turned out, the area received only 2 to 4 inches of snow—a mere “dusting” by Minnesota standards–coupled with mild morning temperatures that made for excellent fishing conditions.

Over 25 union volunteers and B.A.S.S. High School Fishing members provided participants with hands-on ice fishing instruction and assistance. Much to their delight, the budding anglers each received a free Pure Fishing ice fishing rod and reel, game calls from Plano Synergy and other goodies. As a bonus from local unions and other supporters, more than $3,000 in door prizes were given away as well.

Elevator Constructors Local 9 member Dave Morin (left) greeted guests with free fishing tackle.

“We had a great turnout and the event went really well,” said local volunteer project leader Dave Morin, a member of IUEC Local 9. “It’s awesome to see all these kids getting out to experience ice fishing, some for the first time. I’m thankful to our sponsors, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the volunteers who pitched in to make this possible.”

Participants came from across the Twin Cities and around the region. Tony Wilking made the 70-mile drive from St. Cloud so his 6-year-old son Jack could enjoy the festivities. “We’re grateful for everyone who put this event together,” said Wilking, a retired U.S. Army veteran. “Activities like ice fishing are so much better for kids than sitting inside playing video games.”

Participants Tony Wilking (left) and son Jack were all smiles waiting for a fish to take the bait.

“This is a really cool idea,” added David Brandner, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, who brought his son Mason to the event. “You’re getting kids involved in the outdoors, which is wonderful. Plus, how many people can say they took their kid fishing and got a free fishing pole?”

Volunteer Jarrod Asleson, a member of Cement Masons (OPCMIA) Local 633, said donating time to take kids fishing was a labor of love. “My wife is an AFSCME union member and we’re both happy to be out here doing something positive for our community,” he said. “This is our second time volunteering at a Union Sportsmen’s Alliance youth ice fishing event and we’re already looking forward to next year!”

The Chisago Lake Take Kids Ice Fishing Day was organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, which is supported by USA national conservation partners Bass Pro Shops, Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Remington Arms and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

The event was sponsored by IUEC Local 9 and the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, with support from: IBEW Local 110, Operating Engineers Local 49, OPCMIA Local 633, Pipefitters Local 539, UA Plumbers Local 15, Roofers Local 96 and the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades councils. Additional corporate partners included Clam Outdoors, Joe’s Sporting Goods, Maynard’s Tackle, Northland Fishing Tackle and Today’s Tackle.

Chisago Lake was a hub of activity as more than 75 youth and their families turned out for the USA’s Take Kids Ice Fishing Day.

“Thanks to Dave Morin and his diehard crew of volunteers from various unions and the local community, the event was a great success,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “Participants were treated to a fun morning of ice fishing in heated shelters with everything they needed to experience the fun of ice fishing and hopefully get hooked on the sport.”

The Minneapolis-area event was the latest in series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held through Work Boots on the Ground, which organizes union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is fast approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019.

Participants David Brandner and son Mason savored a chance to get out on the ice together.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Youth Outreach Program Awarded $25,000 Grant from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund

December 16, 2019 in Conservation News, Press Release, Work Boots On The Ground

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) community-based youth outreach events recently received a boost in the form of a $25,000 grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund.

The donation will support youth events in the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program. Portions of the grant funds will be applied to at least a half-dozen events, including the USA’s second-annual Take Kids Ice Fishing Day in Minnesota next January.

By all accounts, the new partnership is a perfect match. Each year, the USA organizes free fishing, recreational shooting and hunting events through Work Boots on the Ground—which unites union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.

Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019 alone.

Each outreach event is designed to connect participants with the nation’s outdoor heritage by teaching practical outdoor skills while instilling an appreciation of nature and desire to conserve and protect it.

A $25,000 grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund will help thousands of youth experience fishing and hunting through the USA’s outreach events.

Guided by the visionary leadership of Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris, the Outdoor Fund empowers Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s 200 million annual customers to support conservation efforts by roundup up their purchases. Rallying passionate customers alongside dedicated team members, industry partners and leading conservation organizations like the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Bass Pro is creating North America’s largest conservation movement to collectively shape the future of the outdoors and all who love it for generations to come.

“Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and the USA share the same goal,” said USA CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance, “to introduce new people to hunting and fishing so our outdoor heritage and conservation ethics survive and flourish.”

Many of the USA’s youth events are held in urban and semi-urban areas where young people have little or no opportunity to engage in traditional outdoor activities on their own, Vance noted. “Local union members, in service to their community, volunteer their time to mentor young participants, with the hope of igniting a spark that turns into a life-long passion for the outdoors,” he explained.

“The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s—great organizations that share the vision of preserving our outdoor traditions and natural resources for generations to come,” added USA Conservation and Communications Director Forrest Parker. “This partnership will allow the USA to continue to grow our mission and engage even more youth and communities with the outdoors.”

Though the USA-Bass Pro Shops partnership is still in its infancy, Bass Pro Shops also supported a USA-led youth event marking the Nov. 2 dedication of a new wheelchair-accessible fishing pier at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network, the center focuses on aquatic conservation education and annually serves more than 11,000 youth and adults.

The massive new pier is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the USA through Work Boots on the Ground. Donations in funds, volunteer union labor, materials and other construction expenses from project partners topped $800,000. The effort is the USA’s largest to date and marks the organization’s 200th Work Boots on the Ground project completion.

More than 500 youth signed up to participate in a free fishing event built into the day’s festivities. Volunteers from local labor unions, the FWC and members of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) assisted the excited young anglers. Bass Pro Shops donated $2,000 in clothing and gear to help outfit the young anglers, while the USA used the occasion to proudly announce the Outdoor Fund grant.