'Fishing for the Heart' program gets kids out of the classroom to experience something new

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. You could say that's also the motto for an organization in southeast Wisconsin -- a group that is helping children get the chance to enjoy something news.

With the wind blowing strongly off of Bark Lake in Washington County, 14-year-old Cessalyn Turman's feelings are mixed.

"I am scared, excited, a little bit nervous," Turman said.

It's understandable as the Lutheran special school eighth grader is spending part of her day out of her regular classroom -- and in the outdoor classroom of Caleb Niedfeldt.

"I see curiosity. I see wanting to experience something new," Niedfeldt said.

A week before this, Niedfeldt previewed this day for Cessalyn and the two other students with her, 13-year-old Nash Siemers and 10-year-old Jaylyn Holmes.

"I told them we`re going to go to a small lake. We`re going to be in my boat. You`ll be safe. It`ll be fun. You`ll try something new," Niedfeldt said.

"When Mr. Niedfeldt gave us this opportunity, I was like really down for it, like yeah, sure," Turman said.

Cessalyn, like Nash and Jaylyn, bought in -- hook, line and sinker after Niedfeldt casted out the idea of them going fishing with him through his "Fishing for the Heart" program.

"The idea is to go into the schools and run like a pilot program where we go in, we have the rods and the reels. We do different casting games with them. And then after we`re all done with that, and teach them some safety things, then we move out and bring them out to the lake," Niedfeldt said.

Even though this is a small, secluded lake, the moment is gigantic for the kids. The experience will last much longer than just the couple of hours on the boat which is creating a wonderful fish tale for Nash's mother, Tricia Siemers.

"It`s amazing how they bring out the inner, I don`t know, child in some of these kids. From experience I can say that Nash was so reserved in his school, like he wouldn`t speak. He didn`t have friends. He was so, but now that he`s gone to the Lutheran Special School for a couple of years, he has friends. He talks about them at home. We`ve just watched him progressively become an adult, you know, at age 13. He`s grown up," Siemers said.

That's the kind of story that Niedfeldt wants all of his students to have.

"I`m hoping that they walk away, you know, excited that they learned something new. And life is full of awesome possibilities outdoors," Niedfeldt said. "I love just to see the excitement, not just getting in the boat, but when that bobber goes down and they get to catch a fish. And sometimes you get surprised and you catch a big fish."

The big catch wasn't necessarily what Cessalyn pulled out of the lake. Instead, it was just the experience she was able to share with her friends.

"It`s like a family to me you know. My family, we`re always together. We`re always doing things together. So it feels like I`m with my family," Turman said.

Niedfeldt is planning an ice fishing trip for the kids this winter.