LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Funds raised at this year’s 4th Annual Arkansas Conservation Dinner were put to good use Saturday in Pine Bluff.
Union volunteers spent time teaching youth a new love for the great outdoors. The kids caught lots of things Saturday morning, including fish provided by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The "Get Youth Outdoors" event exposed some of them to things like archery, air rifles and fishing for the very first time.
“They chose Pine Bluff because they felt like it was a great way to impact the community,” said Robert Stroede, Conservaton Manager for the Union Sportsman Alliance.
The group teamed up with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to get kids away from the tv and video games.
“Our members are union trades members from the AFL-CIO, working class folks who get out there and build our schools, buildings, and hospitals,” added Stroede.
The American Federation Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is made up of 56 national and international labor unions, representing 12.5 million men and women. The union isn't large in Arkansas, but it's large enough to lend a helping hand to kids that could use one.
“We raise money through our conservation dinners and sporting shoots, keep the money local and put it back into the community,” Stroede said.
They fund outreach events like the one Saturday at Martin Luther King Jr. Park Pond. The first 250 kids who showed up received free fishing rods, bait and tackle.
“We've had a tremendous amount of people show out for the event. Some got to shoot an arrow, rifle and of course fish. Everyone's catching fish and having a great time,” said Maurice Jackson with Arkansas Game and Fish.
With anglers and hunters funding nearly 85 percent of conservation efforts in the country, organizers hope the event will educate and encourage a future generation of outdoorsmen and women.
“It’s exceptionally important for kids to get outside and learn some skills. If you can teach a kid how to fish they're going to enjoy it and want to go back. They'll be able to go out and catch, take them home, clean them and enjoy them with their families,” Stroede said.
Arkansas Game and Fish hopes to make this an annual tradition. They said about 400 people turned out and both groups expect that number to continue growing.