Rods4Kids Needs You! Http://www.heartlandoutdoorsman.com Press by Scott Richardson, Pantagraph Newspaper (IL) Mike Clifford is looking for a few good men — and women — and anyone else he can get to donate money to give fishing gear to the sons and daughters of America’s soldiers. Clifford, Web master of heartlandoutdoorsman.com based in Monee near Joliet, launched Rods for Kids last week. The goal is to raise $25,000 to put 3,000 rods, reels and tackle packages in the hands of the children of people in the military. Clifford, conservation director of the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance, said the idea came when he was reading a newspaper article that highlighted problems faced by kids whose moms and/or dads are away fighting the war in Iraq or working in support. While one spouse is off serving in uniform, their children are essentially living in single-parent families. The at-home parent must do the work of two to keep the home together, an exhausting prospect for sure. Fishing provides an outlet to relieve the stress and a way to spend quality family time when it’s needed most, he said. Clifford, who organizes fishing derbies for kids near his home, sees an added benefit. The program is bound to reach children who’ve never gone fishing. Studies show the earlier you get a kid started in the sport the more likely it is he or she will pursue it as a lifetime hobby. That’s important at a time when fishing license sales are flat or declining in most states, he said. “These kids are our future biologists, our future fisheries managers, our future politicians. We’re counting on them, and they’re counting on us,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence that when the budget for natural resources are in the shape they are in, that fishing license sales are level or down. It all starts with the kids.” Clifford approached Zebco with the idea. The company is providing the fishing gear at a reduced price. Each child will receive a spinning reel, 5-foot-6-inch medium action rod and a 76-piece multispecies tackle package. He hopes to attract donations from corporate sponsors, individuals and clubs that focus on fishing and the outdoors. He expects wide support. Growing anti-war sentiment is focused on decision-makers in Washington, D.C., not on the men and women in uniform, said Clifford, who classifies himself as politically moderate. “It seems to me people are supporting our soldiers. This has nothing to do with politics,” Clifford said. “This is about our natural resources and about kids.” He’ll work with the military to identify kids in military families or host fishing derbies open to children with fathers or mothers in the service. To become a sponsor, visit http://www.heartlandoutdoorsman.com.