Spring Hill, Tenn.—Nearly 200 youth and their families turned out at San Antonio’s Woodlawn Lake Park on Saturday for the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) 2nd Annual Fishing Lines at Christmas Time event.
The free, community event was organized by the San Antonio Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) with support from the Priest Holmes Foundation and NFLPA San Antonio/Austin Former Players Chapter. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office was also on-site with a safety officer and sheriff’s boat.
“I grew up in the outdoors—that’s how I raised my kids. It’s such a crucial part of conservation, but there’s a clear disconnect between kids today and the outdoors,” said San Antonio BCTC Representative Shane Denn. “Anything we can do to engage kids in nature is worth every penny. Me and the other union volunteers had a blast, and I want to make this an annual event.”
Thirteen union volunteers representing the San Antonio BCTC, Electrical Workers Local 60, United Association Local 142, Insulators Local 87, Sheet Metal Workers Local 67, Roofers International, and the NFLPA San Antonio/Austin Former Players Chapter, donated their time to rig fishing poles and provide youth with instruction and assistance in baiting, casting, and landing fish.
“The event was outstanding,” said Jordan “Gig” Ritenour, assistant to the international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers. “We got to interact with a lot of different people. Many of the parents were learning as we taught the kids, and they were just as excited to get their hands on a fishing pole—many for the first time.”
Priest Holmes, former NFL player and founder of Priest Holmes Foundation, was proud to be part of the youth outreach event in the city where he grew up.
“It’s my passion to be able to use my professional career as a platform to connect with underserved communities,” Holmes said. “Fishing brings the experience of being outdoors while learning patience and a new life skill. It’s a connection between myself and the families who participate while we create positive memories.”
Participating youth received a free fishing rod and reel to continue fishing for years to come. They were also gifted stuffed animals through the Priest Holmes Foundation’s partnership with PetSmart, and many won additional prizes. Adding to the holiday spirit, Slingshot San Antonio brought several vehicles decorated in Christmas lights, including the San Antonio Spurs car, for families to take photos. To cap off the morning of fishing, union volunteers prepared a picnic lunch for everyone, and PepsiCo provides chips and beverages.
“Getting families outdoors together, especially in urban areas, and giving them the knowledge and tools to pursue activities like fishing is so important to the future of our outdoor heritage,” said USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell. “We are proud to provide young people with these rewarding experiences and extremely grateful to all the union members and partners who make them possible.”
The event was part of a series of community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events, sponsored by Humana, organized under the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program and supported by national partner Provost Umphrey Law Firm as well as USA founding partners UIG, ULLICO, Bank of Labor, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation and Buck Knives.
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Work Boots on the Ground (WBG): WBG is the USA’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.