Spring Hill, Tenn.—Despite the cold temperature and strong wind, more than 150 participants turned out at San Antonio’s South Side Lions Park on December 11 for Fishing Lines at Christmas Time—the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance’s (USA) first holiday-themed youth fishing event.
Organized by the USA, Priest Holmes Foundation, and the San Antonio Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) in partnership with NFLPA San Antonio/Austin Former Players Chapter, Texas Union Roofing, and local labor unions, the event was the latest in a series of free youth outreach events held as part of the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program to introduce the next generation of anglers to the joys of fishing.
Priest Holmes, former American football running back and founder of Priest Holmes Foundation, initiated the event after organizing former NFL players to volunteer at the USA’s Kansas City Area Take Kids Fishing Day.
“Events like Take Kids Fishing Day provide opportunities for NFLPA Former Players to re-engage in their communities and use their platform to encourage youth and support conservation,” Holmes said. “I joined the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance in 2020 and, since then, added this event to The Priest Holmes Foundation. The Foundation has participated in two USA fishing events and looks forward to a continued partnership.”
Holmes used his foundation’s connections with youth programs to invite kids of all ages from local schools as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA).
“At CASA, we work with children who currently have to navigate the foster care system. CASA’s goal is to provide support and remain a constant through their journey,” said CASA Advocate Engagement Specialist Juan Reyna. “The fishing event was phenomenal and gave them a sense of normalcy, a day to just be kids. The children raved about wanting to fish again. It was great to see both the children and advocates enjoy and bond over such a simple action.”
Union volunteers representing the San Antonio BCTC, Roofers Local 123, UA Sprinkler Fitters Local 669, Sheet Metal Workers Local 67, Texas Union Roofing, NFLPA San Antonio/Austin Former Players Chapter, Insulators Local 87, Electrical Workers Local 60, and UA Local 142, donated their time to rig fishing poles prior to the event and assist youth with instruction and assistance in baiting, casting, and landing fish. Three teenage boys of Roofers Local 123 and UA Local 669 members ran the bait station and helped participants re-tie their hooks.
Allan Rodger, president of Texas Union Roofing, made the four-hour drive from Fort Worth to volunteer. “We have a rule—if it involves cops or kids, we are there,” he said. “The kids’ smiles were worth the trip. The more events like this we can have, the better our country will be. Paying things forward always pays you back.”
Camo the Christmas Clown was on site sharing his outdoor knowledge and spreading good cheer. A large polar bear and an appearance by H-E-Buddy, a major San Antonio grocery store mascot, provided additional photo opportunities, and a DJ kept the young anglers energized with tunes. The San Antonio Police Department was also on there to ensure a safe environment.
Adding to the holiday spirit, each child received a free fishing rod and reel, courtesy of Humana, to help ensure everyone has the chance to continue fishing for years to come. Kids also received stuffed animals through the Priest Holmes Foundation’s partnership with PetSmart and additional items donated by H-E-B Grocery. Many also won outdoor gear, compliments of Bass Pro Shops, by answering Camo’s outdoor trivia questions.
“This event showcased the spirt of Christmas on so many levels,” said USA Conservation Programs Manager Sam Phipps, “from the volunteers who donated their time to help the kids experience an outdoor activity many had never experienced before to the youth participants who felt the joy and excitement of fishing, received special attention from the volunteers, and left with gifts and memories they will cherish for a lifetime.”
Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA): The USA is a union-dedicated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills for conservation. The USA is uniting the union community through conservation to preserve North America’s outdoor heritage. For more information, visit www.unionsportsmen.org or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Work Boots on the Ground (WBG): WBG is the USA’s flagship conservation program that brings together union members willing to volunteer their time and expertise to conservation projects that improve and enhance public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks and mentor youth in the outdoors. The USA’s Work Boots on the Ground program works closely with federal, state and local agencies and other conservation groups to provide manpower needed to complete critical projects that may otherwise go undone.