Despite living close to the beach, many low-income and foster youth in Southern California have never been fishing — let alone seen the ocean.
But one Los Angeles-based nonprofit is changing that one trip at a time. For the last 50 years, the Los Angeles Rod and Reel Club has taken about 150 at-risk youth, mostly foster kids, from Los Angeles County, Orange County and the High Desert on an annual deep-sea fishing expedition.
On this year's trip on July 10, 7-year-old Odyssey Valdez caught her first fish off the coast of Long Beach and filled the boat with infectious laughter.
"It builds lasting memories, she'll have this forever," said the girl's mom, Aida Valdez. "I'm very grateful for that."
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For most of the kids, the ocean outing was their big trip of the summer and gave them an experience that they otherwise couldn't afford to have.
Over the years, LA Rod and Reel has taken more than 16,000 kids out on the ocean, teaching them how to use fishing rods and catch underwater creatures.
"To see their faces ... when the boat starts to move under them, is really a kick," said Donald Goldsobel, president of LA Rod and Reel.
But LA Rod and Reel isn't only about teaching kids how to fish. It's also about connecting disadvantaged kids with mentors. This year, more than a hundred volunteers from the non-profit connected with the kids for the first-time experience.
"These children need personal contact," Goldsobel said. "They need people that care for them."