Aug. 5, 2011

Virginia Guard fishing to keep kids off drugs

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen  
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. In an ongoing attempt to keep children in the commonwealth of Virginia off drugs, the Virginia Army National Guard’s Counterdrug program is taking at risk youths and providing them with the skills to fish as a viable alternative to substance abuse. The Virginia Guard’s Drug Demand Reduction Task Force provided their Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs, or HOFNOD, program to a group of children in Patrick County July 27 to 29.

 

A group of children in Patrick County participate in the Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs, or HOFNOD, program with the Virginia Guard’s Drug Demand Reduction Task Force July 27 to 29. (Courtesy photo)

The kids, who were selected from Blue Ridge Counseling Services’ summer program, spent the first two days of the program learning about the dangers of substance abuse, the importance of saying no and the basics of fishing. They learned how to tie knots, casting techniques and different types of tackle and bait. On the final day, the kids were driven to a private farm where they spent the day fishing on an under fished pond.

“Most of the children haven’t had the opportunity to go fishing. Every student caught a sizeable fish, thus building their self esteem and confidence,” said Staff Sgt. Douglas Perry, HOFNOD instructor. “Most of the students lack opportunities to do these types of activities.”

The theory of the program is that through other activities kids will be less likely to engage in risky behavior. A leading factor for first-time drug use in youth is having nothing else to do, according to Master Sgt. Daniel Dolan, Virginia HOFNOD coordinator. Throughout the course there is less emphasis on drug prevention and more of a focus on developing the angling skills of the children.

“The kids that are chosen are usually at risk or have low self esteem. We work to help straighten the kids out, or help develop their confidence,” said Dolan. “Many of the children have never been fishing, so this is a first for them.”

The HOFNOD mentorship program is unique in that Virginia is the only state using it as a long-term mentorship program.

 

Children participating in HOFNOD spent the first two days of the learning about the dangers of substance abuse, the importance of saying no and the basics of fishing. They learned how to tie knots, casting techniques and different types of tackle and bait. On the final day, the kids were driven to a private farm where they spent the day fishing on an under fished pond. (Courtesy photo)

“Virginia is the only state that utilizes the National Guard to conduct the HOFNOD mentorship program,” said Dolan, who introduced the program to the commonwealth over 10 years ago. “There are other states that have long-term fishing programs, but none use the HOFNOD program.”

Along with the director of the Future Fisherman Foundation, Dolan and the DDR team developed the mentorship program currently used by the Virginia Guard, which typically consists of twelve visits to small groups of “at risk” or “low self esteem” kids.

“Each visit deals with a different topic such as, fish biology, the aquatic eco system, knot tying, stewardship, good decision-making, ethics, drug prevention lessons, etc., he said.

“By doing these activities these children learn that they can have fun without using drugs and when faced with the pressures to make bad decisions they can say ‘no, but do you want to go fishing instead?’” Perry said.

The Counterdrug program places Army and Air Guardsmen in communities throughout the Commonwealth conducting Drug Demand Reduction programs for schools and civic organizations, supporting law enforcement agencies with criminal analysts and aviation support, managing our internal drug testing program, and providing all hazard treatment referral services to Guardsmen
and their families. They are a supporting effort at the local, state, and federal levels working both supply and demand sides of the drug crisis.

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