Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foster Girls Get Hooked on a Florida Fish Tale; Diamond D Ranch Hosts an Outing for about 40 Youths That Centers on a Book

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foster Girls Get Hooked on a Florida Fish Tale; Diamond D Ranch Hosts an Outing for about 40 Youths That Centers on a Book

Article excerpt

Byline: ROGER BULL

They rode ponies, bounced in a big inflatable bounce house and ate snow cones and lunch. And they fished.

It was fishing that was at the heart of the day. Family Support Services of North Florida brought about 40 girls out to Diamond D Ranch on Jacksonville's Westside for a morning of activities. But it revolved around a book they'd all been given to read: "Jason and Elihu: A Fisherman's Tale."

It's a story set in North Florida of a boy in pursuit of a legendary fish. But the boy and his sister are in foster care, just like most of the girls who came out to the Diamond D Saturday.

They not only met the book's author, who talked to them and autographed their copies of the book, but they met one of the key characters - a miniature horse named Sundance. He posed for photos with them and personally licked a drawing of him when the girls carefully held out the open book in front of him.

That's as close to an autograph as he could handle. He is, after all, a horse.

Family Support Services is a nonprofit group that has the contract in Duval and Nassau counties to manage children and teens under supervision of the Department of Children and Families, instead of their own parents.

That's about 2,000 of them living in foster homes, group homes and with relatives, said Lisa Collins of FSS. The agency has taken some of them on other outings this year: Six teens got scuba-certified, for example. Others went to a surf camp.

In May, the David Garrard Foundation and FSS took a group of kids deep-sea fishing.

But Saturday, it was another group with a different type of fishing.

Becky Foster, who works at Diamond D, said the pond had bream, catfish, perch, koi and "one gator, but he don't come out much."

WITH A LITTLE HELP

Volunteers and Diamond D employees baited most of the hooks and instructed the girls to flip it out as far as they could from the bank and wait patiently for the float to start moving.

Eleven-year-old Britanni was shy, hiding behind one of the adults. But she did come out long enough to say she caught a few bream and a couple of bass. She's fished before at her grandfather's house, but others were first-timers wanting nothing to do with the flapping fish they pulled out. …

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