Cast Hope… Getting Kids Outdoors
Ryan Johnston told me one evening over tacos while we were both in graduate school at Chico State – “I think I am going to start taking kids and a mentor on free guided trips, and for my MBA project/thesis I am going to start a non profit.” For a guy with a degree from UC Davis working on a Masters Degree who had the summer prior interned in Manhattan, it was a bit of a left turn….at the time I had been shoveling water out of drift boat for about 10 years and had a history degree from the number 3 party school in the nation according to Playboy magazine so I was pretty open to anything.
Ryan is my calculating, complete opposite of impulsive, incredibly intelligent friend so what was I to do? Well, I threw all the cards on the table and said I am Ryan’s not so calculating, very impulsive, moderately intelligent, 10 years to get a 4 year state school college degree friend, so lets do this.
Life leads us in many different and wondering directions but at this time I was coming to the realization that people protect what is important to them, what is important is usually things that people derive pleasure from or enjoy. Looking around at the kids in my world I began to realize that if kids do not use the outdoors they will not value the outdoors, meaning they will not be willing to protect it in the future. If the wild places in our world are to be protected by the next generation they must be valued by them. More valued then video games, social media, strip malls, and really anything with a screen. For me that was where Cast Hope was born, the simple desire to share the outdoors through the sport of fly fishing.
Cast Hope was born shortly after that conversation over tacos…. Ryan and I wanted to get kids out doors via what we knew and that was fly fishing. That was how we experienced the outdoors and the way people in our lives shared it with us. We started taking a kid and a mentor out on a free guided float trip once a month or so. We thought that if we were going to do this that we needed to include someone like a mentor who was already important in the kids life to keep getting them out as we did not want to be a “one time experience” type of organization…. If kids went fishing once and then never again that didn’t really achieve what we were trying to do.
Nearly 10 years later from that night at Tres Hombres we have grown to serve kids across 2 states with plans to expand to a 3rd or 4th with in the next year, grown the number of kids we serve by nearly a 1000% (we will have 800kids in our program in 2020), and taken a scraped together budget of a few hundred dollars and grown it by 722%. We have grown our service area, the number of kids we serve, and our budget every year we have been in existence.
In the end statistics means nothing if we have not achieved the mission, and that is sharing the outdoors through the sport of fly fishing with those that would not otherwise have the opportunity. I have shown kids the stars without the glare of street lights for the first time in their lives, watched kids feel a river for the first time against their legs, and hook a fish on a fly rod and see a smile and excitement like nothing in their lives prior could provide.
I would like to think we are creating the people that in the future will be the ones that are as passionate as we are about the outdoors. Weather they fall in love with fly fishing, sleeping under star filled summer skies, or the sound of rushing water against their legs as they wade out to swim, I believe we are doing our small part to help share the outdoors. In the end that is what our wild places need moving forward if they are going to continue to be there for future generations.
Some one once asked me with a wry look …… “what are you and Ryan trying to do?…change the world!?!?!?”…… I thought for a minute and said “no just the next generation to live in mine.” In the end that is what Cast Hope is about.