Union Ironworkers, Former NFL Players Help Get Florida Youth Hooked On Fishing

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Ironworkers Local 397 Host Youth Fishing Event at Suncoast Youth Conservation Center

Spring Hill, Tennessee.—Nearly 200 youth and their families attended the Take Kids Fishing Day at the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC) in Apollo Beach, Florida on April 15. Most of the participants had never fished before.

Hosted by Ironworkers Local 397 and Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), the free community event aimed to introduce young people to saltwater fishing from the boardwalk and fishing pier built by union volunteers at SYCC in 2019.

The wheelchair-accessible structure is the result of a multi-year community service project organized by the US through its Work Boots on the Ground conservation program. It flanks a restored saltwater pond and wetland adjacent to SYCC’s 6,000-square-foot educational facility.

Most of the youth at Take Kids Fishing Day had never fished before the event.

“We are grateful to the US for its commitment to supporting youth engagement in the outdoors. The fishing pier they built for us makes a world of difference for visitors, field trip students and summer campers,” said SYCC Director Candice Wade.

“Florida’s natural resources belong to all of us, and not everyone has the opportunity to grow up with access to nature or guidance on how to participate in outdoor activities,” he added. “Events like this empower youth and families to enjoy Florida’s wildlife with a conservation mindset. I especially love that the participants have received fishing gear, so they can continue to apply the skills they learned.”

As the youth fished from the boardwalk and along the banks of the marsh, 18 union volunteers from Ironworkers Local 397 and the NFL Players Association along with staff from USA and SYCC helped them bait hooks, cast, reel in, and familiarize themselves with their new fishing rods. and reels, provided by the US.

With the help of union volunteers, some of the youth caught black drum and pinfish

“Unions are part of the community, and we are always looking for ways to give back and make a positive impact. We had a lot of volunteers to make sure the kids had a great experience,” said Keven Barber, financial secretary, treasurer and business agent for Ironworkers Local 397, who organized the event. “Between youth events like this and the Multi-craft Core Curriculum (MC3) apprenticeship preparation program that we participate in with high schools, we hope to expose young people to the trades, so they will consider it as an option when they become graduate”.

“In the NFLPA, we look for opportunities for kids to experience activities that they don’t normally get the opportunity to participate in,” said Jerry Bell, president of the NFLPA’s Tampa division, who volunteered at the event. “It was great to be able to spend time with these kids and show them a few things about fishing. I saw a girl catch the biggest fish of the day and it was great to see how excited she was.”

Throughout the event, SYCC staff also manned four educational stations that included fish tagging, knot tying, fish measuring, and casting.

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance provided all youth participants with their own fishing rods and reels to continue fishing beyond the event.

The Suncoast event was part of a series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events organized through the US Work Boots on the Ground program with support from US national partners. Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Union Plus and Humana, plus partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and Buck Knives.

“The weather for this year’s event was great and the kids caught more fish (black croaker and pinfish) than in previous years,” said US Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell. “We cannot thank the volunteers from Ironworkers Local 397, NFLPA and SYCC enough for donating their time to provide participating families with a fun and educational experience and spark their interest in fishing.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to unions whose members hunt, fish, shoot, and volunteer their skills for conservation. America is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information visit unionsportsmen.org or plug in FacebookYoutube, Twitter and Instagram.

Ground Work Boots (WBG): WBG is America’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise for conservation projects that enhance and improve public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, they restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the great outdoors. The US Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide the labor needed to complete critical projects that might otherwise go undone.

Suncoast Youth Conservation Center (SYCC): SYCC is the educational center for the Center for Conservation at the Florida Conservation and Technology Center, located in Apollo Beach, FL. Located on a 20-acre campus with 6,000 feet of indoor and outdoor learning space, SYCC offers field trips, summer camps, and other youth programming geared toward getting young people outdoors. SYCC is part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), an office within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that aims to defend Florida’s outdoor heritage by educating and training youth Florida youth and educators with conservation concepts and outdoor knowledge. Learn more about SYCC Summer Camps