Special rec group, New Lenox Park District helping kids become anglers
Seconds after casting his line into the lake, Anthony Walsh had a nibble. A few feet away, Blake Weber caught a bluegill. The fish definitely were biting at Hibernia Park in New Lenox, where teens and adults with the Lincoln-Way Special Recreation Association were learning to fish and paddle boats.
“I caught a bluegill,” Weber proudly said. “I’m gonna tell my dad when he gets home.”
It was not Walsh’s first fishing experience. He claimed he caught a couple of them last year while fishing with his father and brother. But for many participants in this New Lenox Community Park District event, it was a first — not only for fishing, but also boating. It was also a first-time event for the park district.
The program was funded by a $5,000 grant from the National Parks and Recreation Association in partnership with the Rather Be Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing Program, which helps develop new fishing programs, strengthen and sustain current fishing opportunities and better serve minority groups with introductory fishing programs and events, spokeswoman Lauren Lotz said.
New Lenox Park District has successfully received this grant funding for the past three years, securing over $20,000 which has been used to purchase boats, make their nine ponds handicap accessible, restock the ponds and launch new programs like this, Lotz said.
This year their goal was to introduce fishing to underserved groups — such as those with special needs.
“This is definitely a new experience for our teens and adults,” Melissa Jensen of LWSRA said. “We want to show them new opportunities. They live around here and they may not know these facilities exist. They can build on their interests.”
With only the slightest apprehension, they donned orange life jackets and climbed into the paddle boats.
“This is not tippable, right?” Brendan Winter said. “If I fall in, I know how to swim.”
Shirley Braglia, the park district’s recreation supervisor, said she hopes they can host this fishing and boating event every summer with LWSRA.
“We have a great relationship with LWSRA,” she said.