APOLLO BEACH, Fla. — Living around so much water in Tampa Bay, many residents take for granted the opportunity to do some fishing. However, for kids living in the foster care system, a day out on the water can be a life-changing experience.
For 13-year-old Jose, half the fun is just being on a boat.
“Just the wind and the water and how it’s so relaxing,” said Jose.
As for 16-year-old Jeff, he never even held a fishing rod until he was introduced to the Casting For Kids program. Now he’s hooked.
“I’d probably have a lot of adrenaline but I’d feel great if I caught a fish for the first time in my life,” said Jeff.
They were two of 10 Tampa Bay foster children to be taken out on the bay by local fishing charters that volunteer their boat, time and knowledge to give these kids an unforgettable experience.
“I really just like to watch the smiles on their faces, giving them the time of their life,” said Captain Mike Murphy.
“The captains, they plan this whole day, they take these kids out, they give their time, they really spend the time to teach the kids how to fish,” said Lindsay Hermida with the Heart Gallery of Tampa.
She said these fishing trips are something the teens look forward to every year.
“Going fishing during the summer is a right of passage for most kids and unfortunately being in foster care a lot of times they don’t get that opportunity,” said Hermida. “A lot of them have said to us, ‘I’ve never been fishing before, I’ve never been on a boat before,’ so doing things that any normal kid would do in the summertime is really the best thing that we can do for them.”
These excursions can also be confidence builders.
“I have a good chance of catching one at least one,” said Jose.
Just a few minutes later, Jose’s optimism turned into reality as Captain Mike helped him reel one in.
While Jeff, who aspires to go to college to be an engineer, says it’s been an educational experience.
“They like to steal our bait,” said Jeff. “If I can engineer something that will catch more fish for people then that is what I will do.”
Casting For Kids is also made possible thanks to the Mielke Foundation. Over the past five years, they've hosted a charity fishing tournament for foster kids, raising over $300,000.
This year’s tournament will take place at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Pete on Nov. 5 and 6. For more information go to mielkefoundation.org.