Approximately 400 area youth will participate in the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation's (PBCFF) 21st annual Kid's Fishing Day program in several weeks at Bicentennial Park in Lantana. This heartwarming program, sponsored by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and other community businesses and individuals, will take place Tuesday, August 5th through Thursday, August 7th. For the past 21 years, this unique outreach program has targeted children from throughout Palm Beach County who don't normally have the opportunity or means to experience offshore fishing aboard a big boat. Kids are treated to a special day of marine environmental education, angling instruction and a deep-sea fishing adventure. Approximately 400 youngsters from various area summer recreation programs and church youth groups are scheduled to participate. In addition to the children, approximately 100 volunteers will also take part.
For many of the children, the ocean encounter will be a first time experience. "Riding on a big boat in the ocean and getting the opportunity to tug on something that may be as big as they are is a huge thrill for these kids," said Tom Twyford, who has helped coordinate the event for the past 21 years. "Just the adventure of cruising out the inlet and seeing a flying fish or sea turtle as they head offshore is a big deal for some of the youngsters." In addition to a fishing trip aboard the Lady K drift boat, the kids will also learn about fishing techniques and boating safety. Each youth group will rotate through a series of educational activity stations which include knot tying, how to cast a fishing rod, how to set up a tackle box and how to be a responsible angler. A marine 'touch tank' provided by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will highlight the land-based activities. "With the help of marine biologists and local fishing experts the kids will be able to interact with some of the marine animals that live right here in the Lake Worth Lagoon. We also teach the kid's why it is important to maintain a healthy marine habitat. The touch tank is an entertaining and effective teaching tool that helps convey the message 'With no habitat, there are no fish'," continued Twyford.
Most of the children range in age from 8 to 14 years old. The program, which is free of charge to all participants provides each child with a special T-shirt, lunch, drinks, a two hour drift fishing trip and personalized certificates of participation. Each kid will also be presented with a new fishing rod and reel, sponsored by the Florida Foundation For Responsible Angling. "Of course, by the end of the program they will know how to put it to good use," added Twyford. Adult volunteers supervise the kids and serve as program instructors during the event. The various activities and interaction between the adults and children helps improve each child's self-esteem and personal confidence. "We believe that programs like this one help give kids a greater appreciation for the marine environment and build better environmental stewards for the future. It's certainly a memorable first-time introduction for many of the kids," said John Jolley, President of the PBCFF. Since its inception in 1988, approximately 9,000 kids have benefited from the program.
Kid's Fishing Day is underwritten by many generous businesses and organizations. The event's title sponsor, the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, has been actively involved since its inception. Other sponsors supporting the effort include the Florida Foundation For Responsible Angling, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Bev Smith Toyota Kia, Palm Beach County Justice Association, the Flotilla Club, and the Palm Beach County KDW Classic fishing tournament. For many years, the Town of Lantana has been an instrumental partner in this program. "The Town of Lantana has really embraced this program through the years, providing us with not only an ideal venue at Bicentennial Park but also playing a supportive role through their police and parks departments. The town staff is always a pleasure to work with on this project and we are very grateful for their ongoing support" said Twyford. Additional support for the event is provided by individuals who help sponsor one or more children with a donation of $35 or more. For additional information, please call (561) 832-6780.