Healthy Family Hoopla drew a crowd to Westwood Park on Saturday, taking advantage of perfect weather conditions.
The outing succeeded despite having a different name, a different sponsor (which itself has a new name) and being held at a different time of year.
The event is an expanded version of the Andy and Opie Take Me Fishing Day that was sponsored by the Women’s League of Mount Airy for many years and was held in September in conjunction with Mayberry Days.
Now known as Healthy Family Hoopla, it’s a spring event sponsored by Parenting PATH (Positive Actions, Thriving Home), which used to be known as Surry SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) in collaboration with Surry Friends of Youth, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, Surry Interagency Collaborative, BB&T Lighthouse Project and Mount Airy Police Department.
There is still lots of free fishing for kids, but there are also other activities, face painting, sand art, and lots more food. There is also more kinds of fish as the cooler spring water temperatures allow the reservoir to be stocked with fish that couldn’t survive in the late summer heat.
“We started this when we had much younger members,” said Lisa Goodin, speaking for the Women’s League. “We’re doing so much now. It had just gotten to be too much. We began asking ourselves if we could turn it over to someone else. SCAN had been involved with us all along, and Tamara (Veit, Surry SCAN director) and I are both fishing enthusiasts, so I mentioned it to her, and she jumped on it.”
“I used to just come to help out,” said Tamara Veit, whose organization is changing its name from Surry SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) to Parenting PATH (Positive Actions, Thriving Home). “I do in-home family counseling with children that are at risk for abuse, neglect, or being involved with the juvenile justice system. This is a great event for the families I work with. They can come here for a free day of fishing. A big part of what we teach families is that activities together are important. You need activities to do things together and enjoy each other, to relax and enjoy the good things.”
Veit said many of those families that she has counseled are volunteers now.
“It’s organized chaos. Three people need bait, and we’ve had two broken fishing rods,” said Kin Hodges, NC Wildlife Resources Commission, as he calmly passed out bait and provided fishing rods as needed to the throng of children surrounding him.
“Having this in the spring allowed us to change species of fish. This park is always open to the public, and we stock 800 catfish a month from the spring to the fall. We had also put a special bunch of catfish before Mayberry Days. But since the water is cooler now, trout will live here. We put in 300-400 trout yesterday so the kids could catch them. It’s something different. And there are always bass and sunfish here. They spawn naturally on their own.”
Mary Ann Watson, an assistant agency manager for BB&T Insurance, was on hand with other BB&T employees in conjunction with BB&T Lighthouse Projects.
“Since the Lighthouse Project began in 2009, our associates have contributed more than 500,000 volunteer hours and improved the quality of life for more than 15 million people,” said Watson.
“The Lighthouse Project gives us an opportunity to provide corporate financial support to local charities, while our associates roll up their sleeves and go to work landscaping, painting, preparing meals and more.”
On Saturday, the Lighthouse Project volunteers were helping children have a free day of fishing, food and fun.
The Women’s League has passed on the reins to the event, but they have not abandoned it.
“A lot of our members have grandchildren now,” said Lisa Goodin, “and they want to bring their families.”
Goodin and Robin Cook, a Women’s League volunteer, were handing out prizes under a shaded tent. Each child who catches a fish gets a ticket, and those tickets can be cashed in for prizes. There are lots of prizes that can be redeemed with a single ticket, so each fish caught earns a prize. But there are larger prizes for multiple tickets. Five tickets can get a young fisherman a fishing rod of his or her own, and ten tickets will win an enormous stuffed fabric fish.
Less than two hours into the morning, Troy Watson got enough tickets to score an enormous catfish which he carried off proudly, juggling his two fishing rods with the monster stuffed fish which was almost as big as he was.
“We know when someone catches a fish,” said Goodin happily, as squeals of joy periodically erupted from around the reservoir.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.