The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services are teaming up for a new partnership to help introduce foster children to the outdoors.
The Fostering Outdoor Oklahoma Families program launched over Saturday with a Foster Family Fishing Day in Oklahoma City. About 25 foster children and their families spent the day fishing together at South Lakes Park where many of the kids caught their first fish.
"The boys are just having a blast, they've never had the opportunity to go fishing before, this is their first time and they're just loving it," said foster mom Lori Anderson.
Oklahoma State Senator Paul Rosino came up with the idea for the Fostering Outdoor Oklahoma program to help show foster children and their families all the fun they can have outdoors doing things like fishing. It didn’t take long for others to get on board with the plan.
“One of the highlights of my career was kicking off our new partnership with OKDHS,” said ODWC Director J.D. Strong. “[Saturday] was the launch of what we hope to spread statewide, teaching foster kids and their families how to reap the many rewards of getting outdoors to fish.”
Oklahoma City Police officers and firefighters, along with ODWC staff, fished with the children and helped coach them through the process.
The OKC Police Department and OKC Fire Department bought all the rods and reels, while the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Foundation supplied the tackle, ODWC provided a camo bag and the children got to keep everything.
“It means a lot because a lot of times we can't afford to do anything, and with fishing there's a lot of equipment involved and that sort of thing.” said Anderson. “It's a great opportunity. We have a neighbor of ours that goes fishing all the time and we've always wanted to go fishing with him, but we just didn't know how to start [or] go about it, so now we feel like, ‘OK! I'm encouraged.’ I feel empowered.”
The wildlife foundation offered free annual fishing licenses to all the foster parents at the event so they can continue to enjoy catching fish with their kiddos in the Oklahoma outdoors.
Strong said after Saturday’s successful kickoff event, the plan now is to expand the program statewide.