by Laura Tingo
Two educational Work Boots on the Ground projects the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) looks forward to each year are its ‘Take Kids Fishing Day’ events held in La Crosse and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. This year, over the June 7 – 8 weekend, nearly 170 youth had the chance to enjoy the thrill of baiting hooks, eating a picnic lunch, taking home prize giveaways – and reeling in some nice fish!
For many of the kids who came out to fish, it was their first time holding a fishing pole or touching a fish. Both events were free and open to the public. All this is thanks to the generous volunteerism, sponsorship and support of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, which hosted the La Crosse event, and the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and Greater West Central Area Labor Council, who hosted the Eau Claire event.
Volunteering this year at Carson Park in Eau Claire and Pettibone Lagoon in La Crosse were members of USW Local 449, OPEIU Locals 272, 277 and 599, LIUNA Locals 140 and 268, IAM Locals 21 and 1115 and District Lodge 66, AFTW Local 3605, UA Local 434, AFSCME Locals 1914, 1449, 2484 and 2748, BLET Local 13, IBEW Local 14, CWA Local 4640, OPCMIA Local 599 and BCT&GM Local 22.
Local unions and companies also generously provided funds and supplies for these events, and additional funding was provided by a private donor from the Jesse A. Skrove Memorial Fund to honor Jesse, an avid fisherman who had appreciated the event’s purpose and who recently passed away.
“Engaging youth in the outdoors is one of the key reasons we created Work Boots on the Ground. Involving them early in conservation is key to passing on our outdoor heritage,” said Fred Myers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. “These free events, staffed entirely by volunteers from the labor community, are a prime example of the value of introducing youth and their families to a healthy, outdoor pastime.”
At each event, every youth angler was given a ticket for a chance to win a prize, and every ticket was a winner. Terry Hayden, Eau Claire event organizer, President of the Western Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager of UA Local 434, said kids were awarded giveaways such as tackle boxes and fishing poles.
“Those that won fishing poles, of course, wanted to use them, so we had volunteers busy rigging them up,” said Hayden. “Being connected with nature as a youth helps build a healthy respect for the world we live in.”
Because the events were planned to take place during Wisconsin’s Free Fishing Weekend, adults who did not hold fishing licenses had the opportunity to fish along with the kids.
Bill Brockmiller, President of the Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO, headed up the family fun in La Crosse. “Not only do kids love to fish, but it’s satisfying for grown-ups to watch a kid who’s all smiles while catching a fish…and there’s no better time than now to get a kid hooked on fishing.”