Heroes with Hope kicked off its first Fishing with a Cop event Thursday, hoping to reel in a big fish as well as cast out a line for future friendships.
Located at the pond of the Noble Research Center, four middle school students from the Ardmore area partnered up with Ardmore police officers Sgt. Audie Gee, Sgt. Phil Sheppard, Sgt. Larry Payne and Sgt. Brice Wooley hoping to build meaningful relationships for years to come.
Gee has been with Heroes with Hope for the last two years and currently serves as the president of the foundation.
Being an officer with the
Ardmore Police Department for the past 23 years, Gee has seen a lot of the youth in the area come and go. Getting more involved with the community and building relationships means a lot to the veteran officer.
“I really enjoy it, it bridges the gap and breaks the stigma that a lot of people put on law enforcement,” Gee said. “It lets the kids see that we are not bad people, we are just everyday normal folks.”
The pond is loaded with bass and catfish, which have to be released back into the pond after being caught.
Both types of fish are found throughout the many lakes, rivers and ponds southern Oklahomans have come to enjoy over the years.
Heroes with Hope Director Melissa Wooley said with having those spots around the area it’s sometimes assumed everyone has gone fishing before.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the opportunity to wet a line, which sparked the idea to use the foundation to get kids hooked on a new hobby.
“We, as a board, discussed some different things we could do this summer,” Melissa Wooley said. “We wanted to expose the kids to something new and something different that maybe they didn’t have the opportunity to do.”
This is the first iteration of the Fishing with a Cop with plans to continue to run more events like this throughout the remainder of the summer.
As the 2018 Ardmore Officer of the Year,  Payne has been involved with Heroes with Hope for the past year, and jumped at the chance to go fishing.
As an avid fisherman, Payne knows the sport is a real bonding opportunity and hopes to be able to build a connection with the community one cast at a time.
“I think that is a big thing, that they can get out and get around some guys who can take them out and show them some things,” Payne said. “If they can come away with a good experience from it then I think it is a good deal, fish or no fish.”