Taking a youngster fishing can be one of the most rewarding outdoor experiences one can have. The children are excited and eager to catch something. ”Will it be a perch? Maybe a bass? Yes! A catfish! Wait a minute…is that a stick?” You just never know what may be on the end of the line.
Operation Orphans, Inc., a non-profit 501©(3) organization, will be taking boys and girls who are wards of the State, fishing April 13 and April 27. Since 2004 over 1,000 children have participated in the Operation Orphans fishing program. The kids come from child residential facilities and foster homes from across Texas. They arrive at Camp Gene Ashby located in Mason County along the Llano River. The groups fish in the surrounding area at local tanks, ponds and river areas. Landowners allow the kids and their guides to spend a day fishing and enjoying the outdoors. All fishing is catch and release unless the landowner states otherwise.
Operation Orphans, Inc. also takes underprivileged kids deer hunting with the “Take a Child Hunting” program. Dates scheduled for the 2019 deer hunting season are October 26 which is for girls, and November 16, December 7 and January 11 which are boy’s hunts. Since the program began in 1960, 18,807 boys and girls have participated. Landowners use this program as a management tool to harvest excess animals and give a memorable experience to the youngsters who take part.
Both the fishing and hunting programs depend on area landowners who allow the kids to fish and hunt and also on volunteers who serve as guides, sharing their knowledge and love of the outdoors. Guides will have been subject to a background check and during the hunting, will have successfully completed the Hunter Safety course.
During the fishing events the guides spend their time tying on tackle (lots of tackle), untangling lines (you can’t believe how tangled), removing moss (yuck!), and coaxing kids to grab that worm and get it on the hook (you can do it!). It’s quite exhausting and rewarding all at the same time! To watch the kids improve their skills and have such a good time outside is such a thrill.
Anyone who would like additional information about Operation Orphans, Inc. and the fishing and hunting programs may contact Camp Supervisors Lyla and Jerry Crouch, phone: 325.347.6745 and on the web: www.operationorphans.org. At the website one can sign up to donate, host children, guide or volunteer in other ways.