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Fishing Derby Helps Kids with Special Needs Move Outside!

West Virginia students fishing at the USGS Leetown Science Center.

More than 45 children from four West Virginia schools enjoyed a day of fishing at the USGS Leetown Science Center.

What better way to enjoy the outdoors than with a day of fishing! Earlier this summer, about 45 children with special needs enjoyed a day-long fishing derby at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Leetown Science Center in Leetown, West Virginia. For more than 30 years, this facility in the panhandle of West Virginia has been open for children with special needs to fish and get outside.

The USGS is a science organization that provides impartial information on the health of our ecosystems and environment, the natural hazards that threaten us, the natural resources we rely on, the impacts of climate and land-use change, and the core science systems that help us provide timely, relevant, and useable information.  On most days, the researchers at Leetown are dedicated to improving fish health throughout the eastern United States. On June 3 however, the focus was on kids getting outside as a part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move Outside! initiative.

With the help of volunteers in Leetown, these children have a safe and comfortable environment to enjoy the outdoors. The fishing derby is a great opportunity for kids to learn about the great outdoors and get in the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity.  Stocked with trout and bass, the pond has become a haven for mighty outdoor fans who face significant roadblocks in getting outside.  The center holds many fishing events during the summer and welcomes senior citizens and wounded veterans to come and fish as well.

“Making a day of fishing available to children with special needs is rewarding to the volunteers who have a long history of supporting this event,” said Bill Palmisano, director of the USGS Leetown Science Center. “This event is a wonderful morale booster for the center.”

As for this year’s derby results? A young woman named Lacie won the girl’s competition, catching a 26-inch fish!  While in the boy’s competition, Tucker and his dad had a total of 9 fish! Although on this warm summer day, everyone who came out to fish was a winner!

The event at Leetown was one of several events that the USGS hosted this summer in support of Let's Move Outside!  Other events included Get Outdoors Colorado, Science Camp (8-week program in Reston, VA), and the Grand Canyon-Partners in Science (Flagstaff, AZ).  In total, USGS helped more than 11,000 young people and their families have healthy, outdoor experiences through Let's Move Outside! events and activities.