Community event helps children with disabilities reel in their first catch

Posted at 9:38 PM, May 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-14 23:38:49-04

SALEM, Utah -- There's nothing like fresh catch on a sunny day to make a classroom lesson come to life, and recently more than a thousand students with special needs caught their first fish.

The lesson in angling at Salem Pond came courtesy of volunteers from the community and staff from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“Today we are at the almost 30th annual Salem Pond fishing day,” said Tonya Kieffer, a wildlife recreation specialist. “We bring out about 1,400 students with disabilities into a one-day event where we get the kids the ability to catch a fish.”

From learning how to bait hooks, to hooking a fish for the very first time, many of these children are happy to be outside and out of the classroom.

Most of them are enrolled in the program by their teachers, all part of an effort to help the kids escape everyday life.

“This is an opportunity where these kids catch a fish for the first time, and no matter how old you are, whether you are 2 or 90, it's the same feeling that you enact in yourself when you reel in that fish,” Kieffer said.

Hundreds of volunteers turned out for the event to help the children reel in a fish.

Kieffer said the event began with a pair of siblings.

“It started out with two brothers, you know, 30 years ago, and over time people caught on to what the idea was, what the message was, you know, give back to your community, give back to these people,” Kieffer said.

Kieffer added: “They caught on, the heard about it, they want a part of it. You know, sometimes it is about the feel-good moments that we can give back to in today's society.”

For more information about fishing in Utah, visit the DWR’s website.