Free St. John fishing camp April 20

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish 40th Judicial District Children and Youth Services Planning Board and Prevention Committee will be sponsoring a free fishing camp for children from ages 8 to 14 on April 20.
The free fishing camp is a joint project that will be coordinated by several agencies — the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, parish government, the sheriff’s department, school board and Global Recycling Company — to give participating children a morning filled with educational fun. The program is an introductory effort, but coordinator and volunteer Bernell Charles thinks many others will follow based on the response he has received so far.
“(It will be) one in a long line of many. It’s just something that we kind of toyed around with in an attempt to reach the kids. It was pretty much a group effort,” said Charles. “What we’re doing is looking for ways to try and reach the kids and express to them that there are other things out there besides crime, drugs and violence. You know, to give them something else to do.”
The program is technically only for residents of St. John Parish, but the organizers say that they won’t turn anyone away. Charles hopes to expand the program to cover the whole of the River Parishes and several age groups next year, based on the success of the program.
Charles said that other events are in the works for the future.
“There’s also going to be a youth forum, pretty much like a town hall meeting, for the kids. Kids from all the schools come in and voice what they see as far as some of the problems they’re encountering,” he said.
Charles expects a date for the next event to be set soon but speculates that it will be sometime in May.
The fishing camp will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 20, and end at 1 p.m at the Bonnet Carre Spillway boat launch in Norco. Lunch will be provided for the children, and fishing poles and bait will be provided, though participants are allowed to bring their own equipment. Children will be bused to and from the spillway from two designated pickup locations during the morning and afternoon.
The program will include a number of interesting activities such as fishing safety training, a demonstration by the sheriff’s department diving team, a lesson in fish species and age identification and raffle prizes for the children in three different categories. Sign-up packets include a camp activity schedule, permission slip, registration form and a medical consent and liability form. Children less than 8 years old must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and chaperoned for the duration of the event.
The camp organizers are currently accepting volunteers and in-kind donations from the community. The organizers request that donors do not give cash and call and inquire about items that are needed before donating. All materials for the event are donated. Volunteers will be required to pass a background check before being allowed to participate. Background checks will be free of charge.
For more information, call Bernell Charles at 504-570-4885.