Hundreds of local kids came out in droves for the Merwin Special Kids Day in Woodland and left with new fishing rods, reels and commemorative T-shirts.
Some of the participants were even able to nab prizes for the biggest catch during the day that’s focused on helping kids with disabilities and their families fish from wheelchair accessible ponds. They left with fresh rainbow trout on ice and a few fishy tales.
The event on Saturday, July 9, was hosted at Merwin Fish Hatchery.
“Our goal here is to make sure every person leaves happy and with a smile on their face,” stated Todd Dinehart, vice president of employee experience at Pacific Power, in a news release.
Pacific Power has hosted the Merwin Special Kids Day for over two decades in conjunction with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. On one day each summer, Pacific Power employees and retirees join alongside community groups at the hatchery that is located east of Woodland.
“They just want to show you what they’ve accomplished and you know, it’s pretty cool,” said Kevin Young, of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “And I think everybody should, at some point in their life, volunteer their time at this kind of event.”
The day marked the first Merwin Special Kids day since 2019 since the COVID-19 pandemic placed a halt on the events, stated the release. In previous years, families traveled from outside of the area from places like Salem and Olympia to spend some time at the hatchery.
Many of the kids who participate are patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Legacy Emanuel Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Kids and other health care providers.
“Families often return year after year and for many a day at the hatchery provides a much-needed break from hospitals and doctor’s offices and an opportunity to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t,” stated the release.
It also offers an opportunity for kids who have never fished to try their hand at the hobby. The event is organized through the work of dozens of volunteers who often return each summer.
“I go because I love it that kids have this opportunity,” said Shelley Zoller, HR service center manager at Pacific Power, who’s been volunteering since 2016. “There are a lot of kids who don’t get an opportunity to even get outside the city, to be out and about. So it’s really great for them to be out in a place that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to go.”
Volunteers from Cowlitz County Fire District 1, Fish First, Edge Rods and Southwest Washington Anglers were among the participants this year. The event also featured vendors.
Volunteers accompanied each participant and their family to one of the two ponds that were stocked with roughly 6,000 trout the hatchery cultivated for the event. They also spent time serving lunch and handing out T-shirts.
The volunteers helped bait hooks, hold the rods and reel in a catch if assistance was needed, stated the release. They also cleaned and packed the fish in ice for the participants to take home.
Each kid was able to catch up to five fish.
“It’s a great experience and not just for the children,” Young stated in the release. “It’s a great experience for the adults who get to help them out and volunteer their time to come out and do this kind of event. It’s very humbling.”
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