Kansas City, Mo. — Nearly 200 young anglers and their guardians reeled in hundreds of fish from Penn Valley Lake in the heart of Kansas City alongside local union members, former Kansas City Chiefs and other community volunteers on Saturday at the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) 3rd Annual Greater Kansas City BCTC Take Kids Fishing Day.
Hosted by the USA and the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), the free event was supported by the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, Priest Holmes Foundation, Kansas City Former Players Chapter, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kansas City Parks, Outdoors Tomorrow Foundation (OTF), Missouri Department of Conservation, Marriott Hotels and Humana.
According to USA Conservation Programs Manager Sam Phipps, the lake was stocked with bluegill and catfish from Osage Catfisheries, which kept the kids busy the entire event. “It was one of the most rewarding events I’ve been part of,” Phipps said. “I bet every child caught at least five fish, and I think everyone who attended the event is now hooked on fishing.”
“It’s very rewarding to see the excitement of kids catching their first fish or even touching a live worm for the first time,” said Bricklayers Local 15 MKN President Dustin Himes. “I’m a huge fan of the outdoors and love sharing my passion with others, especially with kids who might not get to experience fishing and other outdoor activities without the help of volunteers.”
Twenty union volunteers representing the Greater Kansas City BCTC and AFL-CIO, Ironworkers Local 10, NFL Players Association, Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local 518, Bricklayers Local 15, Sheet Metal Workers Local 2, Steelworkers Local 12561, Insulators Local 27, Electrical Workers Local 124, Fire Fighters Local 42 and Teamsters Local 41 along with staff from supporting organizations provided young anglers as well as their guardians with hands-on instruction on baiting hooks, casting lines and landing fish.
“It was a great event with both new and familiar faces,” said Ironworkers Local 10 Business Manager Dave Coleman. “I helped one young girl who was there with Big Brothers Big Sisters and didn’t know how to cast. An hour later, she found me on the other side of the pond to show me how far she could cast. Helping kids and being out in the community is what Labor is all about.”
Paul Coffman, Kansas City Chiefs tight end (1986-87) and Shawn Barber, Chiefs linebacker (2003-05), were among the volunteers who stayed busy putting smiles on the kids’ faces as they discovered the joy of fishing.
All the young anglers received a free fishing rod and reel to keep, so they can continue fishing for years to come.
“I was working with a girl who had never fished before. When I told her she could keep the fishing rod, she put down the pole and gave me the biggest hug,” said OTF Outdoor Adventures Coordinator Tari Garner. “We believe that when kids learn outdoor skills, they have them for a lifetime and share them with their families. That’s what we saw at the event as people from all different nationalities and family dynamics came together to enjoy the outdoors.”
“So many kids talked about it being their first fish and how excited they were,” added OTF Director of Partnership Development LeAnn Schmitt. “When one kid caught the first catfish of the day, everyone was hooting and hollering. It was the perfect reminder of why we do what we do.”