Patty remembers the look on the boy’s face as he watched a fish being reeled in for the first time. He couldn’t hold the rod, but a volunteer was happy to assist. His eyes lit up as he watched the volunteer pull the floppy catfish on shore. Patty had seen several kids enjoy a similar experience that day, but this was extra special. She will never forget how the boy living with quadriplegia experienced the thrill of his first catch on Kids Fish Day.
“These types of moments are priceless,” said Retiree Patty Gonzales, former coordinator of our volunteer programs. “Volunteers are always excited to take part in Kids Fish Day because they know they’re going to be part of something special.”
Heartfelt moments are a common sight at the annual Kids Fish Day. Each year, more than 100 employees and their family members volunteer to host a fun day of fishing for kids at Calaveras Lake. Scott Ballesteros, a warehouseman at our Salado storeroom, says he and his wife have made it an annual tradition. He enjoys watching the kids get competitive with each other.
“They’re so competitive,” said Scott. “They start yelling at each other across the lake, asking ‘how many did you catch?’ One year a kid caught 14 fish right away. And just as soon as he started bragging to his buddies, the fish stopped biting. I told him, ‘well, I guess we spoke too soon.’”
Throughout the years, volunteers have helped more than 600 kids reel in a lifetime of memories. It all started in 2002 when Patty worked with our environmental team to launch a small fishing event on the banks of the San Antonio River. The idea was simple: host a day of fishing for kids who may never get the opportunity otherwise. What started as a small volunteer event at Brackenridge Park quickly grew into a large annual tradition at Calaveras Lake.
Along with a dedicated group of volunteers, good event partners help make Kids Fish Day a success. Prior to the event, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department stocks the lake with hundreds of catfish. C.A.S.T. (Catch a Special Thrill) for Kids supplies rods, reels and buckets of bait and tackle. This year, we’re hosting Roy Maas Youth Alternatives, a local agency that supports children of all ages in crisis.
“Great partners have helped us make a long-lasting impression in the community,” said Patty. “Everyone comes together for a common mission to give these kids a memorable experience.”
On Saturday, April 8, employees dressed in their iconic orange volunteer shirts will gather at Calaveras Lake to host the 15th Annual Kids Fish Day. As they carry on the tradition, they’ll also be continuing our year-long celebration of 75 years of City of San Antonio ownership. We’re looking forward to another fun, memorable day of putting People First!