VALDOSTA — The 46 boys and girls living at the Georgia Sheriffs Boys Ranch will enjoy a fish feast in the coming weeks, with the main course being served up from fish the children caught themselves Saturday.

The annual day of fishing was hosted by the Christian Sportsmen, which ended with a hamburger and hot dog cook-out during which prizes were given to the children in each age group who caught the most fish.

During his very first attempt at fishing, eight-year-old Timothy proved himself as a natural outdoorsman won second place in the elementary school group with 10 fish. Holding up his prizes, which included a lure, a visor donated by Booyah Bait Company and a package of fishing worms, Timothy exclaimed, “I’m all set now.”

First place winners in the elementary, middle school and high school groups won brand-new fishing rods donated by the Christian Sportsmen. The children returned to the pond after lunch excited about trying out their new fishing equipment, even though the group had been fishing since 8 a.m.

“These men come out here every year to pass on their love of the outdoors to the kids,” Director Beth Tillman said.

Perry Hooten, who has been a member of Christian Sportsmen for three years, said the best part about the day is the opportunity to see the excitement in each of the kids when they catch a fish.

“Big or small, it doesn’t matter to them,” Hooten said.

He added that the day offers a great opportunity to get to know the children.

Fellow sportsman Jim Bradford agreed, saying the goal is to make a difference in the lives of the children and to show them a positive father figure.

“We want them to know that somebody cares about them,” Bradford said. “It’s important that they know they aren’t by themselves when they want to do something.”

The Boys Ranch was started in the 1960s by Georgia sheriffs and continues to provide a home for children who may have nowhere else to go. The local ranch began accepting girls for the first time last year.

Many citizens are confused about what the Boys Ranch really is, according to Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk. He has said that many believe the boys are sent there by the court system as a form of punishment, but in reality many of the children are orphaned or have parents serving time in jail. Boys and girls as young as three years old can stay at the ranch as long as they are in school, even through college.

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