This Pond is Your Pond

Our nation’s parks were created for everyone to enjoy. Time in nature makes you feel like you belong and builds lasting memories that mean so much to families. Unfortunately, there are big disparities between who gets to play outside in our protected parks and forests. It takes disposable income and time to fully enjoy the great outdoors—the things that low-income families don’t always have.

a kid with a caught fish

Fishing For HipHop and Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Mercy Housing partnered with Fishing For HipHop and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to get kids from our Denver communities familiar with a fishing spot near them. These kids got to enjoy one of their local natural spaces, Lake Lehow, while participating in a fishing clinic.

fishing instructor malik with kid at pond
Malik showing kids how to use a rod and reel.

Fishing For HipHop is led by famed master fisherman, Malik Wilder. Hailing from Georgia, he’s passionate about the far-reaching benefits of spending time outside fishing. Crystal works for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and heard about Malik’s gift for teaching fishing and reached out. He was thrilled about the opportunity to help kids and covered his own expenses to make the trek to Colorado.

happy child waving in front of school bus

First Time Fishing

The kids learned everything they would need to know to take themselves fishing after the clinic, including knot tying, casting, and safety. Almost all of the kids caught a fish. They practiced responsible catch and release too. It was free for the kids with transportation and snacks provided as well. The children live at Mercy Housing properties, Holly Park Apartments, Decatur Place, Clare Gardens, and Grace Apartments in Colorado.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff came to Lake Lehow to help out.

There was even a little afternoon rain, but the kids didn’t seem to notice. They were thrilled to be fishing in a place that was previously unknown and foreign. Not one of these kids had ever fished before. Malik made sure that each kid got a rod and reel to accompany their new skills so that they could start taking their families fishing.

kid fishing in light rain

Beyond the Rod and Reel

Malik doesn’t just teach kids to fish. Malik uses fishing as symbolism for life when he coaches the kids, “I came from an environment where I didn’t have money, but I took the situation that I was given and taught myself to fish, and now I’m here getting to teach you guys as my job.” He always tries to instill focus and a good work ethic into what he teaches, “This is about inspiring passion. Not having money—don’t ever let that stop you. Even if fishing isn’t your thing, find what is and be the best at it.”

Malik teaching Mercy Housing kids to fish with rod and reel

He’s well aware of the discrepancies with racial equity when it comes to outdoor access. That’s why he created his nonprofit, Fishing For HipHop, with the goal to get more youth from inner cities out into nature.

happy kid fishing with sunglasses

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Mercy Housing share a passion for serving the community, and it was wonderful to partner with Fishing For HipHop for this clinic because partnerships like these can truly benefit people in need. Time spent outside is great for a healthy lifestyle—it’s great to open more kids’ eyes to outdoor activities they may never have dreamed of doing. And in my opinion, nature is the perfect place for those dreams to become a reality… 

… It was really special to see so many kids that previously hadn’t ever fished get the opportunity to learn this skill and explore one of their local natural resource areas. What’s important is that this wasn’t just a one-off experience, they have the confidence, the tools, and the knowledge to go fishing with their families on their own now.” —Crystal, Video Production, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff helping kids learn to fish
Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff really enjoyed meeting the kids and helping out.

Bringing Community Together

The local CBS Channel 4 covered this touching story as well. Thanks to our partners and the community’s dedication, children got the chance to discover fishing and learn more about themselves. Our state and federally protected lands are for all of us. No matter your background, it’s important to find a place outside where you can spend time with the people you care about to learn, grow, and simply enjoy.

All the kids and Malik with a thank you sign kid fishing and smiling at lake smiling kids with baseball hats