LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado Parks and Wildlife took outdoor education to a new level Tuesday at Littleton’s Lake Lehow with a very special fishing clinic for children with Mercy Housing.
“It’s like knocking on a door… so you push down, hold it… when you go back, hold it with this hand…only your wrist goes forward…” Malik Wilder instructed a young aspiring angler.
Wilder started an Atlanta-based nonprofit called Fishing For Hip Hop. It’s goal is to help get youth involved in fishing and the outdoors.
Wilder was hired by CPW to run Tuesday’s clinic and while the state offered to pay for his entire trip, he refused to accept.
“I just want them to learn. I just hope they found some type of love in the outdoors today in this, and they got to see diversity.”
Wilder grew up living off little, but he had fishing.
“I grew up in the housing projects in Rahway, New Jersey right next to the projects and right down the street from the prison is the river and the water system. That’s where I learned how to fish.”
It was an experience he says helped him grow despite his circumstances.
“I think and I know and I understand it’s a gift, and it’s been passed down. My great grandfather used to fish, passed it down to my father and my father passed it down to me.”
He wants other youth to have that opportunity because for him, it was about so much more than fishing.
“That love and passion navigated me through to today so that fishing rod, putting it in my hands, it just taught me so much,” Wilder continued. “They can do this too. They can be a news anchorwoman. They can be fly fishing women or men. They can be marine biologists…”
Wilder may be a professional fisherman, but his true gift is his innate ability to connect with the children.
“Normally they come out, they’ll see a Caucasian woman fishing and teaching fishing. They won’t see someone that’s looking like them and we have a diverse crowd of children today, and they get see all different types of people in different jobs and I’m just hoping they really grasp that.”
With Wilder making the rounds instructing, around 30 kids with Mercy Housing spent Tuesday morning working on their casts.
Even the smallest of the bunch was giving it her best shot. Not one let the normal frustrations of fishing wear on them. When it came time to hit the water, nearly all caught a fish.
And when the clinic was over, each went home with their very own rod.