Water Sentinels Partnership Donates Rods & Reels to Military Families
Thousands of military youth and their families now have a better chance to go fishing and spend time in the great outdoors thanks to a partnership between the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation's (RBFF) Take Me Fishing campaign, the National Military Fish & Wildlife Association (NMFWA), and Zebco, the nation's largest manufacturer of fishing rods and reels.
Above, kids fishing at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina. Below, girls from the Elmendorf-Richardson Air Force base fish near Anchorage, Alaska.
On August 22, the groups announced their collaboration on the 2nd Annual Rods & Reels Initiative to distribute thousands of rods and reels to military families across the country. The Water Sentinels and NMFWA began working together in 2009, but the initiative took off in 2010 when the RBFF provided its full support and connected the Sentinels with Zebco's refurbished rod and reel program.
Since the program's launch, nearly 90,000 youth have benefitted from the program, with almost 1,900 rod & reel sets distributed to 60 military bases in 21 states. The most recent donation of 700 Zebco rods and reels will be shipped this month to the Water Sentinels, who will distribute the gear to members of the NMFWA for use by families on military installations.
"This national partnership is truly a labor of love," says Water Sentinels Director Scott Dye, above at right with refurbished Zebco rods & reels. "It's great to give back to our military families who have given so much to us."
Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation studies show that fishing leads to a lifelong interest in conservation and environmental protection. "That's what our organization is all about," says Water Sentinels Deputy Director Tim Guilfoile, below. "Our goal with this program is to get kids outdoors by giving them the tools they need to go fishing. We're creating the next generation of Huck Finns."
Since 2005, RBFF's Take Me Fishing campaign has played a critical role in helping generate nearly $20 million for state conservation efforts and introducing more than a million youth and newcomers to boating and fishing.
Guilfoile says National Military Fish & Wildlife Association President Robert Fisher sent out a notice about the rods & reels' availability to military bases that had not yet received equipment from the Water Sentinels at noon on August 19, three days before the official announcement.
"Within five hours we had responses from 17 military installations across the country, requesting rods & reels for an estimated 6,800 youth," Guilfoile says.
"Our main goal," says Fisher, "is to expose the youth of America to the great outdoors, especially young people on military bases whose parents fight to defend out nation and protect our natural resources. The phenomenal success of the program just goes to show how much pent-up demand there is for fishing among young people and their families."
In 2009 Zebco began supplying the Water Sentinels with rods and reels that had been previously purchased but were returned, then refurbished and re-packaged so they were essentially as good as new.
"Supporting this program was a natural for us," says Zebco President Jeff Pontius. "By providing the refurbished rods and reels to military families, we not only show support for our troops, but also engage new young anglers in the sport of fishing and contribute to conservation."