Fishing helps bullying victims find peace, friends
An anti-bullying organization is helping bullying victims find friends and acceptance through biweekly fishing events.
Knock Out Bullying Inc. started Fishing with Friends in May of this year. Knock Out Bullying began in October 2013 because of the Founder and President Stacy Hatcher, her daughter Katelynn, and Katelynn’s best friend Destiny, all of Yukon.
“There was bullying going on with a little girl that lived near us, and the girls came to me and asked ‘how can we get this to stop? It’s everywhere and it’s going between both of the schools,’” Hatcher said.
Hatcher helped Katelynn and Destiny come up with a solution of standing up for the other girl, but it didn’t work the first time. Finally, the two girls began making a bigger stand and they got it to stop.
“Everyone liked what they were doing so we kind of formed a little group,” Hatcher said.
Knock Out Bullying began with six girls at a picnic table, but now Hatcher said she never knows how many will come to the monthly meet ups.
“With Knock Out Bullying, we were trying to figure out what we could do to bring the community together and honestly, I thought ‘what does Katelynn know, and what do I know?’ and we know fishing. Fishing can bring people together,” Hatcher said. “We just went off of something we knew that we could do. If we could get people to start coming out then maybe they could see each other in school or wherever, and if something is going on, then they can be like ‘hey, I know that person’ and then they may take up for them.”
Fishing with Friends is hosted from 4-6 p.m. every other Sunday until the weather gets cold at Route 66 Park, 9901 N.W. 23rd St. near Lake Overholser.
Children of all ages come together for the event. They’ve had children from Yukon, El Reno, and Oklahoma City. How many children come to the event just depends on the day, but there is roughly about 40 children each time.
“Our main goal was to bring the community together and get the kids to know each other. They may not go to the same school, they may not even be in the same district,” Hatcher said.
Some loaner fishing poles are available at Fishing with Friends, and the bait is supplied, for people who can’t afford their own or don’t have them.
Hatcher said she loves hearing all the squeals while the children are fishing.
“It’s so funny to listen to all the kids get their first fish, or even get a fish,” she said.
There is also drawings for prizes and there is usually food provided at the event, including free hot dogs which are served on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Special guests or mascots sometimes come to the event. The Blazers hockey team attended the last Fishing with Friends on Sept. 11. The team fished and took photos with the children. The next Fishing with Friends is Sunday, Sept. 25.
The events offer a “no-judgement zone” for the children, which is the motto for Fishing with Friends.
One 10-year-old girl has been to more Fishing with Friends events than any other child, Hatcher said. When she first started coming to the events, she struggled with anorexia and suicidal thoughts because bullies at school called her “fat and ugly.”
“It’s emotional for me, but this little girl has come a long way—a really long way,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher personally mentors the girl to continue helping her cope with the bullying outside of Fishing with Friends.
A lot of special needs children come to the events.
“They just come out,” Hatcher said. “Some of them fish the first time and some of them don’t. Some of them eventually do fish, so it’s really a bittersweet thing that’s going on because it’s completely a no-judgement zone. Everyone is so accepting of everyone.”
The only rule at Fishing with Friends is they have to talk to someone new each time.
Hatcher said her favorite part about the event is whenever the children make a new friend and they go off and go fish together.
Fishing with Friends is a family event and is open to anyone interested in attending. All fishing licenses and permits are applicable for anyone 16 and older. All minors should have adult supervision.
For more information or to make a donation, visit the “Fishing with Friends Knock Out Bullying, INC.” Facebook page or contact Hatcher directly at 537-5112.