Firefighter fishing with children from Austin in Columbus Park. Credit: Kate Nation

AUSTIN — About 100 Austin children and their families are going fishing this weekend with firefighters and police officers from around the city.

The third annual Fish with a First Responder event will run from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday at Columbus Park, 500 S. Central Ave.

As many of the children will be fishing for the first time, they will receive a free fishing rod, bait and lessons. Lunch will be provided.

Lead organizer Doug Aller of financial planning firm New Concept Benefit Group said the event not only helps the children learn a valuable skill and encourages them to care about the environment, it is also a way for them to establish trust with firefighters and officers in their communities and see them in a way that is not rooted in traumatic events.

“We’ve had kids that come and repeat it, and we hopefully will see more. Seeing their faces light up every time they catch a fish never gets old,” Aller said.

Aller said roughly 700 perch are imported from southern Illinois into the park’s lagoon for the community fishing event.

Aller, who grew up hunting with his family in Iowa, said the experience helped him bond with his father. This event has the potential to do the same for children and their parents or guardians, he said.

Fish with a First Responder is organized by New Concept Benefit Group, Chicago Fire Fighters Local 2, Chicago Police Sergeants Association, Chicago Police, Chicago Parks and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

The event is aimed at children ages 7-10. Registration for this year’s event is now closed.

The first Fish with a First Responder was in September 2021, which Aller said was a challenging but rewarding experience. 

“This to me is a unique way to build a bridge between fire, police and the community. There really is a great benefit to being outdoors,” he said.

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