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Outdoor activities this summer available for children who’ve been stuck inside

A spike in outdoor activities is inevitable this summer as families, adults and children flock to the great outdoors after months stuck inside during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a vast ecosystem, wildlife and waterways located right in Southeast Texas’ backyard, many organizations are pulling together to provide beneficial and fun outdoor activities for today’s youths.

Two of those activities include a junior sailing program with the Port Arthur Yacht Club and the Kidzfish2 program provided by Champions Outdoors’ Jenn Nolan.

Nolan, who is a United States Navy veteran, started Kidzfish2 four years ago as a way to involve and bond with her own six children.

“Over the years we’ve been involved in a lot of things for kids, mostly organized sports,” Nolan said. “That family togetherness and camaraderie is what drew me to that stuff, and then as children get older you actually see a lot of separation by ability and personalities. I wanted to get away from that and my youngest, 3, still had a lot of time at home so we started Kidzfish2.”

Jenn Nolan, a certified angler education instructor with the Texas Parks and Wildlife, teaches children proper water safety and how to secure a life jacket.

As a certified angler education instructor with the Texas Parks and Wildlife, and a chapter coordinator for Heroes on the Water Galveston Bay, Nolan started hosting these free clinics all throughout Southeast Texas.

Kidzfish2 teaches children 4 to 17 the basics of fishing, cast netting, knot tying, fish identification, casting, kayak, boater and water safety.

“We take time to create space for families to come together, and during that time they’re all having a great opportunity for education in the outdoors,” Nolan said. “When they leave us they have everything that they need to go on and have family time out on the water to enjoy the outdoors together.”

Alstin Bertrand shows off a ray he caught at the Battlegrounds in Sabine Pass during a fishing lesson.

Jefferson County camps start in July with September and November meet ups at Sea Rim State Park and Battleground State Historic Site in Sabine Pass along with Walter Umphrey State Park in Port Arthur.

Nolan said the program is not only beneficial for the children, but the family unit.

“It’s like the old saying goes,” Nolan said. “‘You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or you can teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime,’ but if you teach a family to fish together, you’re creating an unbreakable family tradition. Unplugged. No electronics. Just spending that quality time together, communicating and working towards achieving a common goal of catching a fish.”

For more information, or to register, email championsoutdoors@gmail.com with Kidzfish2 in the subject line.

Alongside learning to fish, children can also learn to sail with the Port Arthur Yacht Clubs Junior Sailing.

The beginner’s summer camp for children 8 to 18 involves teaching the experience of sailing in an individual boat provided by PAYC.

William Mahavier and Paul Vera teach the four-day course.

Mahavier said Port Arthur Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing Camp allows children to spend three full days sailing on the water.

The course includes new and returning campers to learn parts and proper handling of the boats, knot lessons, rigging, water safety and sailing.

Students also participate in a treasure hunt where they use a map to sail and find clues that lead to a treasure chest.

Longtime camper Keegan Johnstone, right, and an unidentified camper sail on Sabine Lake.

“Discipline is very important on boats, so this gives children an opportunity to learn the importance of working as a team and following orders while enjoying an outdoor activity that is physically taxing, inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and promotes mental and physical health,” Mahavier said. “There are plenty of studies that show that kids who spend more time out doors benefit from the increased sunlight and exercise — if the kids get excited, this is an opportunity that can lead to a lifetime of healthy outdoor activities.”

Aside from the Junior Sailing Camp, PAYC also offers Thursday night racing, adult sailing classes, social and cruising events.

To learn more or sign up for a program, visit https://www.payc.us/programs.