More than 100 South Chicago area youth took their first steps in learning how to fish, shoot and hunt during the Family Outdoor Day held Sept. 28 at the William W. Powers State Recreation Area.
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), in cooperation with New Concept Benefit Group (NCBG), Pheasants Forever, Illinois Conservation Foundation, Illinois Learn to Hunt Program, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Bowfishing Association of Illinois and the National Wild Turkey Federation hosted the event.
Participants experienced a variety of outdoor activities under the experienced supervision from local labor union members and other volunteers. Each youth also received a free rod and reel from NCBG, game calls from Plano Synergy, and enjoyed a picnic lunch with their families and mentors.
“With help from the very dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers on-site, the kids got a chance to go fishing, try bowfishing, shoot trap, learn archery skills and participate in an Illinois Learn to Hunt seminar,” said Doug Aller, NCBG president and driving force behind the Family Outdoor Day. “Our goals for the event were to give children the opportunity to engage with each other and their families, and encourage an interest in conservation and the outdoors as an alternative to smart phones and computer screens.”
Heavy rains the night before diminished during the morning hours, but still forced a slow start to the day, according to Aller. A steady stream of eager youngsters and their families began arriving as the skies cleared, however.
“Things were a little wet and sloppy,” he said. “But it turned out to be a great day with a lot of kids enjoying fantastic outdoor experiences—some for the first time. I saw one young boy beam a wide smile at his mother when he realized a fish was nibbling the bait on his line. It was clear this was the first time he’d held a fishing rod, and for me, that excited grin made the whole day worthwhile.
“Young people growing up in urban areas don’t have the same opportunity to connect with the outdoors as do kids with rural backgrounds,” added Aller. “We hope this event sparked an interest, and showed the youth and their parents a doorway toward taking the next step.”
“The Family Outdoor Day coordinated by Doug Aller and the NCBG runs parallel to the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground outreach program, and we were proud to be part of it,” said Rob Stroede, USA conservation manager. “It’s becoming increasingly important to hold events like this one in metropolitan areas where young people don’t get as much exposure to the conservation message and outdoor lifestyle.”
The event was part of a series of free, community-based youth outreach activities organized and supported by Work Boots on the Ground—the USA’s flagship conservation program. It was also supported by national conservation partners Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF).
William W. Powers State Recreation Area encompasses 580 acres of land and water on Wolf Lake in South Chicago, and offers visitors opportunities to fish, hunt, hike, ride trail bikes and more. In early 2020 it will be the site of a new, expansive USA Work Boots on the Ground conservation project that will include the construction of a new fishing pier, kayak launch and other amenities.