When we first learned about the Wisconsin Rapids Ice Fishing Team - during the 2018 Volunteer Breakfast - we were instantly hooked! A group that combines a sport and gives back to the community is a perfect match. This team of high school students meets regularly, goes fishing and participates in ice fishing competitions. “We’ve been around since approximately 2011 when a couple of kids approached me about coaching the team,” said Scott Stankowski, Head Coach and teacher for Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools. “Since then, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association (WIFA) formed and there are now over 80 teams across the state. There are fishing tournaments throughout the season culminating in a state championship. Our team won the state championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017; and was runner up in 2018.”
What REALLY got our attention is what this team does for the community. Some of the activities they participate in include:
- Cleaning fish for the “Battle On Bago” tournament in February.
- Running the annual Campus Clean Up: organizing classrooms to clean up garbage on campus and the surrounding neighborhood.
- Donating outdoor items – such as fishing poles and lures – to Toys for Tots so kids learn more about the outdoors.
- Selling “Consent Bracelets” during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, in association with the National Wild Turkey Federation; then donating the proceeds to domestic abuse shelters in Portage and Wood Counties.
- Creating a lunch-time recycling program in the school. Team members make announcements and posters and stand by waste receptacles.
- Volunteering during the State Cross Country Meet by taking care of the garbage and recycling receptacles.
“The Fishing Team enables kids that normally fish within their family to work and play together in a positive environment,” said Scott. “Students learn a lot about life, ice fishing and feeling good about themselves by making a positive impact. It is our responsibility as people of the community to give back to it. I find it important to give back in areas that you are passionate about. I oftentimes feel I get more out of the volunteering than I put in through the satisfaction of helping others and gaining knowledge – also in watching how the members of the team respond and are able to do things on their own.”
The team started volunteering during “Battle on Bago,” the Midwest’s largest ice fishing tournament. “Many of the participants donate their fish to the organization, which then cleans the fish and gives them to local domestic abuse shelters, homeless shelters and veteran and retirement homes,” said Scott. “At first, the fish were cleaned by random volunteers. It was sad to see spectators drinking and asking for free fish – fish that was being cleaned for a shelter! It upset me that all these people could stand around and not volunteer but drink and ask for free fish. I volunteered for five hours that year, then came back the second year and got more involved with the help of board member Brian Gliszenski. I volunteered my fishing team to clean the fish. It was a great way to teach the kids how to clean fish the right way, give back to the sport AND donate time to a great cause!”
Scott has a very personal reason for getting involved in Sexual Assault Awareness Month. “Someone close to me was sexually assaulted years ago,” said Scott. “Learning about it and caring about it brought a greater emphasis that men are the ones who need to stand up for this. It is very important to me as a male teacher to be a role model when it comes to treating others properly in a personal relationship, especially with the Me2 Movement. So my team members sell consent bracelets and talk about consent and assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. My team - comprised mostly of young men – are the next generation of adults who help determine the shape of society. They know - and are expected to know - how to treat others especially in a personal relationship.”
To get involved in the Wisconsin Rapids Ice Fishing Team, students simply need to attend a meeting. “Meetings are announced at school and displayed on our Facebook Page,” said Scott. “The team is a co-op with Stevens Point Area Senior High. The kids have made great connections with students from other communities. You just need to be a high school student; and students must have a parent or guardian present on all ice fishing trips. Some of the students are very serious fishermen and some are beginners.”
What a wonderful way for youth to learn a skill AND learn how to be good citizens! This story gives new meaning to the phrase, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
And don’t forget, the Volunteer Center has a number of group volunteer activities to help your youth group give back to the community too. If you need help getting started, just give us a call at 715-421-0390 or visit our website at www.volunteerinnerwisc.org.
The Volunteer Center is an internal program of United Way of South Wood & Adams Counties. It serves as a clearinghouse for volunteers and agencies. Our mission is to mobilize and inspire people to utilize their talents and enhance the community.
Caption: Members of the Wisconsin Rapids Ice Fishing Team clean fish during “Battle on Bago” in February 2018. Pictured here are (from left) Noah Pulchinski and Cassandra Davis, former team members; and Joseph Pulchinski.
- Name: Wisconsin Rapids Ice Fishing Team
- Nominator: Scott Stankowski, Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools Teacher, Head Coach
- Location: Lincoln High School
- When Started: Since 2011
- How Many Members: average about 15-20
- Ages of Members: High School Freshmen to Seniors