Virginia fishing camp hooks community together through inclusion


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — If you’ve ever been fishing, the main takeaways are patience and enjoying the outdoors. It’s not always about how many fish you reel in.

And on one July afternoon, Beyond Boundaries, a non-profit organization that provides outdoor experiences for people of all ability levels, partnered with Jacob’s Chance to host an outdoor experience in the form of a fishing camp at Byrd Park.

For some, it had been a long time before seeing each other in person.

“I haven’t seen the kids in four months. It’s all been by Zoom,” said Kate Mardigian, Executive Director at Jacob’s Chance. Their organization offers opportunities to kids and young adults with special needs.

“A lot of our adventures that we offer are really adrenaline-driven sports,” said Beyond Boundaries co-founder Shep Roeper. “This is more of a calmer, natured opportunity. It’s not as scary to sign up for a fishing program and you get a lot of thrill out of a fishing trip.”

Besides Roeper and Mardigian, volunteers from Ballast Consulting Group were also on hand while sponsoring day one of the fishing camp. There are four total camp days spread out over four weeks.

“Our mission is really two-sided. It’s about access and opportunity while it’s also about building the community stronger through inclusion,” added Roeper.

“What’s great is that the volunteers that are helping out today, they’re learning about special needs in the community that we work with,” said Mardigian. “They’re moving their own boundaries and maybe their own fears.”

So, for a few hours on a Tuesday, fishing took center stage.

“There’s catching the fish and learning the species but then there’s touching the fish and the slime and the wiggle,” said Roeper. “Bringing that connection a little deeper to the individual which is really cool.”

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