You Know That Old Saying About Teaching Someone to Fish?

For Hartford’s urban youth, opportunities for fishing and outdoor recreation aren’t always available. For many of the young participants in the Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing program, the program offers them their very first experience to fish. It gives young people the opportunity to get off the streets and do something different. “Not all kids want to do sports; this gives those kids something else to do,” says Sergeant Douglas Antuna of the Hartford Police Depart, an active mentor in the program. It is more than just learning to fish and the outdoor experience though, it’s a chance to build trusted relationships with law enforcement officers and safety officials in their community.

Thanks to two donor-advised funds at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the S.A. Johnson Family Fund and an anonymous fund, the Police Activities League of Hartford recently received a $2,500 grant for their Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders program. This funding supported the purchase of fishing poles, prizes and food for program participants. To these youth, the experience to learn new skills, receive recognition and build relationships with police and firefighters in their community is a significant one. For these kids, it’s a gift that has made a big difference.

Hartford mother of three, Cathy Santiago says, “This program is so different from anything my kids have ever done before; for them to be able to do something like this is so amazing.” Santiago’s three children, Nazier (13), Amarilys (8), and Julian (7) have really enjoyed fishing with program volunteers. “All of the officers are so great,” says Santiago, complimenting their eagerness to have conversations with the kids and impact their lives in such a positive way.

Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders is a youth fishing program that has reached more than 100 kids from the city of Hartford in its three years in operation. The program is a partnership between several Federal, State and local non-profit agencies. In 2018, program participants took part in a fishing training class at the Hartford Police Activities League center and then were able to fish on two occasions in a stocked pond at Keney Park. The children each received their own fishing pole to take home.

Sargent Antuna shares, “I know things can’t be fixed overnight. I can’t change it myself, but I can do my little part.” It is the collective work of so many, the little part done by police officers, firefighters, volunteers and the generosity of funders and donors that have impacted Hartford’s youth in a big way. These young people will carry the skills they have learned and the relationships they have developed throughout their lives. Antuna hopes the program will be expanded next year into Hartford’s North and South Ends, with the goal of serving more young people.

You too can give almost anywhere, anytime, to any charity of your choice. To start your own donor-advised fund, contact Deborah Rothstein, J.D., Hartford Foundation’s vice president for development at 860-548-1888, x1019.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $720 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit or call 860-548-1888.