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Cast A Line: Virtual Family Fishing Event

Fishing is about fun, family, and feeling like you belong. Last year, Mercy Housing’s Fishing for Hip Hop event helped resident families explore a lake in Denver to do just that, feel welcome throughout their community. They learned to fish, received free rods and reels, and got to know a natural area that they hadn’t discovered before, Lake Lehow. The kids liked it so much, we were hoping for another opportunity to do it again but knew it might look very different this year in order to keep everyone safe with social distancing.
Mercy Housing Mountain Plains kids loved last year’s fishing event near Denver.

This summer has been tough for so many parents and children with limited recreation activities and so many in-person gatherings placed on hold. We want children to continue to learn and grow throughout their breaks from school, so we were excited to offer Mercy Housing youth the chance to join Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) for Cast A Line – a virtual fishing and education event for children this July.

ELK is an inclusive nonprofit organization that develops inspired and responsible leaders through science education and outdoor experiences for underserved, urban youth ages 5-25. Partners like ELK are essential to Mercy Housing’s success because young people’s access to summer programming and other educational opportunities outside the classroom keeps communities vibrant and strong to raise the next generation of leaders.
This year’s fishing event kicked off with an introduction from Loretta, ELK’s Executive Director. ELK has hosted this event (in person) for 17 years. She shared photos and memories of students fishing, learning, and laughing from years past. Then Nizhooni, ELK’s Assistant Urban Ranger Coordinator and the virtual event’s master of ceremonies, guided young viewers through fishing and wildlife basics. Her “Ethical Angling” talk was particularly close to Mercy Housing’s heart as it stressed the importance of showing respect, and to always share with others your knowledge and skills.
Nizhooni jumped in with interactive lessons about fishing through a Q+A and accompanying videos filmed on location at a beautiful lake.
It was Malik Wilder of Fishing for Hip Hop’s turn next. He lit up the screen with infectious enthusiasm and optimism. His family inspired him to start fishing and reinforced how important it is to lead your life with love and kindness. Fishing is how he says he learned good traits like patience. “I wanted these kids to take away something that they could cherish for the rest of their lives … all walks of life can enjoy fishing and the outdoors.”
Malik shared how his family introduced him to fishing as a kid and how the lessons he learned have stayed with him throughout his life.
After the Q+A with Malik, he took time to talk about equity and equality in our country’s parks and protected lands, urging everyone to “treat others as you would like to be treated,” and that “respect is essential on and off the water.”
Malik wants kids to learn the skills, values, and fun of fishing so that they can pass it on to the next generation.
The Cast A Line partners wanted to make sure that families have what they need to fish in the future. All participants could pick up a free rod and reel at a safe, socially-distanced location. There was even a raffle give-away for a free fishing trip with Malik Wilder himself, as well as State Parks passes.
We would like to offer a very special thanks to ELK, Malik, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife for their support. Events like these are so important for youth. Finding ways to recreate in nature and learn lifelong skills helps kids — making families happy, homes healthy, and neighborhoods stable.
If you have children and are interested in more resources to keep your kids learning in the summer or after school, check out @mercyhousinglearning on Instagram for educational resources.
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