Growing up, Carmen Garner didn’t have a dad around to teach him about the finer things in life. After his mother passed away, he was bounced around between 17 different relatives’ homes before he even graduated from high school.
If it weren’t for a cousin’s boyfriend taking Carmen to fish now and then, his childhood would have been devoid of joy. Instead, he says that man “saved his life.”
Carmen vividly recalls how it felt to sit inside all summer long because it was too dangerous to venture out into his Washington, D.C. inner-city neighborhood. “I used to live in the ’hood and I never went outside,” he told The Washington Post. “People get shot out there. People get killed out there. They get arrested out there.”
It was those fishing trips that saved him, allowing him to get outdoors and appreciate nature for a change, while also providing invaluable bonding time with a safe adult.
Carmen is now a teacher who has dedicated his life to being that safe adult for other kids. He teaches art at Shepherd Elementary School and has written extensively about overcoming a difficult childhood to succeed in life. He’d also been entertaining ideas of starting a non-profit to teach inner-city youth how to fish, so when his $1,200 government stimulus check arrived during the COVID-19 pandemic he knew exactly what to do with it.
“I said, ‘Why not spend the stimulus money on something that’s going to benefit kids, and benefit our community?’” Carmen explained. “I was that kid on the step waiting for someone to come pick me up. Now, that’s what I’m going to be doing. I’m going to be picking these kids up.”
Carmen started Inner City Anglers, a program that brings kids from rough neighborhoods to natural spaces so they can learn all about the sport of fishing. Their motto is, “Where kids can cast dreams into reality,” and it’s a mission he takes very seriously.
Carmen hopes their trips to the water will teach his young anglers about more than just catching fish. He wants to instill these kids, most of whom are Black, with a feeling that they can do anything with their lives. He hopes to show them that they’re valuable and have the same potential as any other kid to accomplish their dreams in life.
Carmen says he hopes others hear about his non-profit and are inspired to start a program of their own. “I want people to go into their own communities, find something they love to do and then introduce that to the kids. You only know what’s introduced to you. If we have more people introducing good ideas into our communities, then our communities will be better off.”
Not only is Carmen giving these kids a fun and wholesome activity that they can pass down to their own children some day, he’s giving them something even more valuable: hope. This has to be the best use for a stimulus check we’ve heard yet.
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