Thirteen-year-old Charley Elgin had only a little prior fishing experience before stepping aboard my boat Monday. Elgin had fished with his grandfather in northern California using spinning gear, tossing out bobbers with worms suspended beneath in hopes of catching bass.

Charley was about to embark on a “Fishing 101” fishing trip, arranged through the Fort Hood SKIESUnlimited program.

After getting to speak with Charley’s mother about what we would be doing, how she could contact us on the water, and exactly when we would return, she left the parking lot with Charley’s infant sister in tow. I then got to talk with Charley about his previous experiences in the outdoors, his expectations for this trip, and his other life interests. Charley, a student at Audie Murphy Middle School at Fort Hood, is both a percussionist and in the robotics club there.

I began with the basics of how to hold and use a spinning outfit, then explained how we would be fishing with slabs vertically in deep water due to the bright, calm conditions we encountered.

Over the four hours that followed, Charley would catch largemouth bass, white bass, and freshwater drum — 61 fish in all.

This all began when Charley’s mother, Jessica Elgin, enrolled him in the Fort Hood SKIESUnlimited program. SKIESUnlimited stands for Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration, and Skills.

SKIESUnlimited offers dozens of activities for military and Department of Defense kids of all ages, ranging from gymnastics to piano lessons, from academic tutoring to various forms of dance, and more.

There are three outdoor-oriented activities to choose from, including Fishing 101 — which Charley participated in — Wee Discover the World, which teaches kids to be observers of nature, and Paws for Fitness, which teaches kids how they can exercise with their dogs.

To participate in such courses, children must first be registered with Child and Youth Services.

Registration is free and is accomplished by contacting Parent Central Services at 254-287-8029.

Once registered, parents may go online to enroll their children for the myriad courses available.

Payment must be made for courses in advance.

Military families separated from their sponsor may be eligible for deployment benefits in the form ofSKIESUnlimited course credits. Mission Level 1 credits may amount to $300 per child and Mission Level 2 credits may amount to $150 per child. Parent Central Services can help parents understand which applies to their situation.

Those providing services to our military kids through SKIESUnlimited undergo extensive background investigations similar to those conducted on military members before they are granted security clearances.

Additionally, such providers also undergo ongoing training in CPR, first aid and child abuse awareness.

This is all done to provide a safe environment for children and to give parents peace of mind.

Fewer than 24 hours passed following Charley’s fishing trip when I received an email from his mother letting me know her 8-year-old daughter and two of Charley’s friends also wanted to go fishing given the positive experience Charley had on the water and how enthusiastically he spoke of his success.

Brenda Brown, SKIESUnlimited program manager, stands ready to help parents clear all of the administrative hurdles so more kids on Fort Hood can take advantage of these quality opportunities.

Brown and her team can be reached during business hours, Monday through Friday, at 254-287-4592.

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