KINGSTON TWP. — When children arrive at a fishing day sponsored by the Back Mountain Police Association at Frances Slocum Lake, they are often a bit shy about approaching uniformed police officers.
But after their first encounter with an officer helping put bait on a fishing pole or offering an extra long hotdog smothered in ketchup, they begin to see the officers as friends.
The event, in its 12th year, brings about 150 youngsters out for a day of fishing, fun and education, even providing a fire safety “smoke house.”
“Our goal is for children to have positive interaction with law enforcement,” said Michael Huntzinger, association president and Kingston Township police officer. “We also want to foster young people experiencing the outdoors with their families.”
To Stanley Sims III, 7, the event provided a chance to spend time with his dad Saturday.
Sims, who is autistic, thoroughly enjoyed the day — from making a colorful shirt, to having lunch with his dad, to catching a “two pounder.”
His dad, Stanley Sims Jr., also “really had a blast. It’s planting a seed in our kid’s mind that fishing is fun.”
In addition to helping his own son, Sims also gave a hand to other youngsters, most of who were fishing for the first time.
“After we were done, I helped other kids. Some of their parents didn’t know anything about fishing,” he said.
Meanwhile, brothers 7-year-old Logan and 6-year-old Aiden Faulkner enjoyed making water themed T-shirts, carefully hanging them up to dry in the sun.
Environmental education specialist Kathy Kelchner led the project. She said rubber fish replicas used for applying paint to the T-shirts were accurate to each species.
“We used bass, trout, bluegills, turtles,” she said, as she looked over the dozens of colorful shirts. “We also used replicas of starfish and seahorses — explaining that all bodies of water eventually end up at the ocean.”
‘Come back anytime’
Event Chairman Ross Piazza said the event required a lot of time and money, but was well worth it.
“We identified about 60 individual things that needed to get done in order to make the event a success and we started getting ready at 6 o’clock this morning,” he said.
Piazza, a member of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, said he was recently doing some work at Harvey’s Creek when he was approached by a man who told him his son still talks about the event.
“I asked him if his son was coming out this year,” he said. “And he said, ‘no’”
So Piazza asked him why not.
“He said because my son is 17,” recalled Piazza. “He’s still talking about it nearly seven years later.”
Piazza is especially enthusiastic about two “track chairs” purchased about five years ago. The chairs allow disabled participants to independently move around the event area — even over grassy terrain.
“This year, a 10-year-old youngster who loves using the chair said he guessed this would be his last year,” Piazza said. “And I told him, ‘No, it’s not. You can come back anytime you want. Even if you’re 21, you can come back.’”
The track chairs are also used later in the day when the event opens to members of Wounded Warriors, which assists injured veterans and their families.
Officers from Kingston Township, Forty Fort, Lehman Township, Dallas Borough and Dallas Township police participated in Saturday’s fishing fun. Also assisting children were representatives from the Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Eight Law Enforcement/Police Science students from West Side Career and Technology Center also attended to gain a better understanding what it’s like to be a police officer interacting with the public.
The event is named after Charles “Rusty” Flack, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who died in May 2011.