The Sunshine Program, overseen by Denny Dobbins and John Meagher, hosts fishing boat excursions for underprivileged children during the summer months and at least one pier fishing day in Norfolk. The club maintains about 130 rods & reels that we supply for the trips. The idea is to get youth outside in a healthy environment, away from technology, doing something they normally don’t get to do. Members of PAC serve as guides and also as mentors to the youth. Some PAC members have been fishing Hampton Roads for more than 75 years.
Some of the children on the excursions have never been on a boat or even near the local waterways. They get to enjoy nature, learn about marine life, and experience the thrill of a tug at the end of their fishing line.
To date, more than 3,000 children have taken part in the program. Support comes from many area businesses, groups and individuals, including the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office and Greg’s Bait Shack.
Children are referred to the Portsmouth Anglers’ program by The Salvation Army, One Step Higher Learning Center, The Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority and local churches.
The Program costs $10,000 to $12,000 to run annually, with more than 50 percent of funding coming from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries provides educational materials and resources.
The Children’s Sunshine Program (CSP) was founded in 1985 by the Portsmouth Anglers’ Club in partnership with the Portsmouth Salvation Army, as a community outreach program for underprivileged and physically challenged children. Its prime mission then, as it is now, has been to offer kids a wholesome fishing experience on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
The program’s first outing was held on August 6, 1985. Over 40 children and volunteers enjoyed a successful day of fishing, fellowship and fun at the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier. The growth of the program, with the help of local sponsors, has expanded over the years to include many organizations and cities throughout the Tidewater Area. It offers children from all economic sectors, both pier and head boat fishing excursions.
Currently, the program’s sponsoring pier is the Ocean View Fishing Pier located in Norfolk. Since 2005, annual head boat trips have been added to the program. This combined exposure offers hundreds of youthful first-time anglers a unique and safe learning adventure year after year.
Volunteer adult fishing guides go the extra mile to educate the kids about all aspects of fishing. They teach them how to select tackle, bait hooks, cast and reel in their catch. They also explain how to help preserve the wonderful resources that our local waters have to offer. They are taught CPR, catching, photographing and releasing what they catch. Each participant is provided lunch, appropriate bait, tackle and lots of fun. A personalized 16-page book, which shares fishing facts and pictures of the most common species caught in Virginia waters, is also given to each child as a keepsake of his/her experience.
The CSP also encourages kids aged 15 and younger to register with the Virginia Junior Angler Awards Program sponsored by the Virginia Salt Water Fishing Tournament, a program of the Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC).