Ikes in Action: Kids Fishing Derby Bridges Language Divide

Outdoor America 2018, Issue 1
Kid's Fish Derby 3

Nebraska ► Planning a youth fishing event this year? Take a page from this chapter’s playbook to reach new audiences in your community.

The Grand Island Chapter celebrated its 25th annual Kids Fishing Derby in 2017. But chapter members weren’t resting on their laurels. They worked with state and local partners to communicate with Spanish-speaking families who might not otherwise receive information about the event.

Nebraska Game and Parks has been a partner in promoting youth fishing and suggested that the chapter apply for a grant to fund outreach to Hispanic families. Although the chapter did not end up receiving that grant, Nebraska Game and Parks offered to partner with them to reach out to the local Hispanic population. (Nebraska Game and Parks also hosts several family fishing events in Grand Island each year.) 

Mike Gaghagen, the Grand Island Chapter’s fishing derby chairman, contacted a local bi-weekly Spanish-language newspaper, Buenos Dias Nebraska, about advertising with them. “Nebraska Game and Parks was willing to donate $250 toward the advertising. Buenos Dias Nebraska was very excited about our fishing derby and also contributed $250 in advertising,” says Gaghagen. “This made for a great partnership, as the Spanish-speaking population in Grand Island is about 17 percent. Game and Parks was also willing to print fliers to distribute through the schools, and we printed one side in English and one in Spanish to reach as much of the population as possible.” The chapter saw greater participation by Hispanic families in the fishing derby and expects participation to increase each year as the chapter continues its Spanish-language outreach. “I believe that this example of combined outreach can be recreated in other states and chapters,” says Gaghagen. 

For chapter leaders who may be worried about language barriers, Gaghagen says “most of the kids do any interpreting for their parents.” Although it is helpful to have a few adults onsite who can help. “Buenos Dias Nebraska sent a couple of reporters to the Derby and I gave an online interview,” says Gaghagen. “They were also on hand as interpreters if needed.”

The chapter hosted 150 youth anglers and a total of 300 attendees. “We gave away 41 fishing poles, 27 tackle boxes, and two lifetime fishing permits,” Gaghagen reports, and plaques were given out “to the delight of the kids.” Clearly fundraising is another critical aspect of this event. More than 50 local and national businesses donated money or products to the fishing derby. Monetary donations were used to purchase the fishing poles and tackle boxes as well as food, drinks, and other essentials. It also paid for additional advertising costs. The chapter purchased the youth fishing poles at a discount from Zebco through a partnership the League established. Visit iwla.org/fishing for details.

It takes a lot of volunteers to run a fishing derby of this size. Members of the Grand Island Chapter recruited friends and family to help staff the event. Members of the local American Legion post cooked hot dogs and hamburgers. Volunteer fishing instructors certified through Nebraska Game and Parks manned some of the stations. And Boy Scouts from Troop 114 helped youth build bird feeders and served the meal. (They got in a little fishing too!)

“As always, it was a busy day,” says Gaghagen, “but it’s worth it to see all the smiles on the children’s faces.”