UF Honors Veterans at Free Family Fishing Event

By Kim Scotto-Kelley

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC) will host its final Family Fishing Day of the year on Saturday, Nov. 16. This month’s free event celebrates both Veterans Day and the life of Sharon Fitz-Coy, who served as Fishing for Success education coordinator for more than 23 years.

From 8 a.m. to noon, participants can fish at the six stocked ponds located at 7922 NW 71st Street in Gainesville. All fishing is catch-and-release, but no visitors will go hungry! Publix will provide a free hot dog lunch.

During lunch, all veterans who attend will be recognized with a special gift: several vintage fishing lures. There will also be raffle prizes for veterans and all children who attend the lunch activities.

“It’s really important to us that we honor our veterans,” said Chuck Cichra, professor and UF/IFAS Extension fisheries specialist.

In fact, Bob Centofanti, a Navy veteran and retired firefighter, is a key volunteer with the program.

“Mr. Bob, as the children call him, is an exceptional person who has quietly dedicated himself to a life of service,” said Crystal Hartman, a biologist with the UF/IFAS fisheries and aquatic sciences program. “His experienced hands have repaired and maintained hundreds of our fishing poles, as well as helped hundreds of youth learn a love of fishing.”

Fitz-Coy, who died unexpectedly in 2016, will also be honored at the event.

“Sharon personally conducted face-to-face hands-on outdoor education programs for over 150,000 children and their parents,” Cichra said. “She likely introduced more children to fishing than any other person in Florida.”

Fitz-Coy’s friends and family started an endowed scholarship fund after her passing that recognizes UF students making an impact on youth in their community. Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded during the lunchtime celebration.

  • WHAT: The final Family Fishing Day of 2019, a free family-friendly event, hosted monthly by the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. This month’s theme honors veterans and the former Fishing for Success education coordinator, Sharon Fitz-Coy.
  • WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 16, from 8 a.m. to noon
  • WHERE: 7922 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, FL 32653

For more information about the program, visit sfrc.ufl.edu/fish/outreach/ffs/ffd.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS website at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media.

(Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

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