Bass Pro Shops

Pack 451 (left) from Mesa and Pack 330 (right) from Gilbert received a donation from Bass Pro Shops in Mesa that included 200 fishing rods and reels.

As the weather heats up, East Valley kids begin spending their free time in front of a television rather than experiencing the outdoors.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are trying to reverse that trend.

“We are trying to get as many kids as possible outdoors,” said Levi Slocum, the assistant general manager of the Bass Pro Shops in Mesa. “We know we can’t completely ignore technology, it is what it is. But the more we can promote the outdoors the better.”

A large part of the two store’s initiative to promote the outdoors started on June 6, when over 200 fishing rods and reels were donated to two East Valley Boy Scout troops. The donation at the Mesa store was just one of many across the country to kick off National Fishing and Boating Week.

This is the first year competitors Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s have joined forces for the event. More than 55,000 rods and reels were donated this year alone, the largest donation ever.

Since this initiative began in 2005, Bass Pro Shops has donated over 400,000 rods and reels nationwide to groups such as the Boy Scouts, Man-Up Surprise, branches of the YMCA and Difference Makers Dads Club, among others.

“We target mainly youth groups,” Slocum said. “The Boy Scouts, for example, are really involved in the outdoors already where as others might not be. But just because they do go outdoors, doesn’t mean they have the right equipment to enjoy something like fishing.

“We want them to enjoy it, and we are giving them an avenue and the product to do so.”

Pack 451, based out of Trinity Church near Gilbert Road and University Drive in Mesa, was among the two troops present at Bass Pro Shops for the donation. Pack 330, which is based out of Val Vista Academy on Val Vista Drive and Germann Road in Gilbert, was also present.

The scouts, along with other family members, had the chance to fish in one of Bass Pro Shops’ indoor catch-and-release pond with their new rods. For some, it was their first time catching a fish.

“We are amazed at the rods they are giving us,” said Laura Higgins, whose son, Zach, is in Pack 330. “I know our cubmaster, Danielle (Alfandre), will have something set up in the future to get these guys out there. It will be great.”

Higgins’ daughter, Sara, caught her first fish during the event, sparking cheers from the rest of the kids. Growing up fishing herself in Minnesota, Higgins said her kids also share the same passion she has for the sport.

But having moved to the East Valley just two years ago, she understands there is limited time during the summer to go out before temperatures become unbearable.

“It’s really hard in the summer,” Higgins said. “We try to put a limit on how much time they spend on electronics, but it’s hard in the summer if I have something going on or it gets too hot. But anything that isn’t electronic and can get them outdoors is a good thing.”

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s will hold family-friendly held family-friendly events on June 8-9 and 15-16 as part of the initiative to get kids interested in the outdoors and fishing. The events led up to National Gone Fishing Day on June 18.

Anywhere from 600 to 1,000 kids usually take part in the annual event, with many sticking around for Bass Pro Shops’ summer camp where they can earn pins for attending seminars related to the outdoors.

“One of the questions we get all the time is if we have WiFi in the store,” Slocum said. “We promote the outdoors, so there is no WiFi. We are trying to get as many kids as possible outdoors.

“We know we can’t completely ignore technology, it is what it is. But the more we can promote the outdoors the better.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at zalvira@timespublications.com and follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.

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