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Making really big plans for second year of “Get Kids Hooked on Fishing”


Kevin Miller truly dreams big for the second annual ``Get Kids Hooked on Fishing'' Sept. 16 at Turtlehead Lake.

Ryan ‘‘Ski’’ Kwiecinski was in high school when Kevin Miller moved into his south-suburban neighborhood with a  bass boat.

That connection turned into something more when Miller came up with a spur-of-the-moment idea last year to get kids fishing and do fundraising, too. Kwiecinski helped Miller pull off ‘‘Get Kids Hooked on Fishing’’ in less than a month. It drew nearly 500 people (more than 250 kids) to Turtlehead Lake in Orland Park and raised thousands of dollars to battle cancer.

‘‘This year, it is beyond huge,’’ Kwiecinski said.

The second event is expected to draw thousands to Turtlehead on Sept. 16 and will raise many thousands of dollars for charity and benefit Kids Fit Foundation.

As Miller put it on social media: ‘‘Our goal is to help educate children and their parents on the proper ways to successfully fish and also instill the ethics and morals that go hand-in-hand.’’

Miller is sharing event info not only with traditional outdoors sorts — my faithful readers, say — but he also is reaching out to moms’ groups on social media and an email list of thousands.

Miller will have drone footage, two photographers and a videographer.

‘‘We will have 20 or 30 avid fishermen walking around getting rods rigged correctly and analyzing situations,’’ Miller said.


Ryan “Ski Kniecinski left) and another volunteer help set fishing lines at the first “Get Kids Hooked on Fishing.

With more time to plan this year, Miller has pulled together sponsors, volunteers and ideas into something beyond big. Talking with him Thursday, I couldn’t decide whether I was talking with a crazy man or with a visionary the likes of Daniel Burnham, who opined: ‘‘Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized.’’

The day will feature Joey’s Red Hots food truck, the launch of Joey’s Red Hots taco truck, a Hog Wild food truck, a catering spread from Big Joe’s Backyard BBQ, test drives from Bettenhausen Dodge, the Boy Scouts of America (starting fires), Jim Nesci’s ‘‘Cold Blooded Creatures,’’ bounce houses from Xtreme Bounce House, face-painters, balloon artists, a climbing wall, music, raffles, split the pot, giveaways, beanbags and a photo booth.

There also will be restaurant gift cards and raffle items/donations from places as varied as the Tool Store, HobbyTown and spas. Brickstone Brewery will be there.

I love that the list draws from outside the outdoors industry.

But there will be plenty for those interested in fishing, too. Shimano Fishing, Bass Pro Shops, the Fishing Connection and Angler’s Outlet will be there. So will the Minooka bass-fishing team/club. Kwiecinski, whom I met when he fished for the Sandburg bass team, is hoping the Sandburg team/club will be there.

The first 500 kids will get a T-shirt with sponsor logos on them.

‘‘We created an immense marketing tool,’’ Miller said.

What truly fascinates me is how the event consciously mainstreams fishing into the larger societal and economic context. More sponsors, donations and volunteers are welcome. Email getkidshookedonfishing@gmail.com.

‘‘Even if it is not for the fishing aspect, it is for the family to get out and enjoy the day,’’ Kwiecinski said. ‘‘Get the kids out and do something cool.’’

And big.

For information, go to the ‘‘2nd Annual Get Kids Hooked on Fishing’’ page on Facebook.