By Ryan Quinlan
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — Most kids hope they never have to go through the foster care system. The challenges of moving homes, making new friends, and having to find the perfect family makes for a very stressful experience. But many children still end up having to try and find their forever home, and a new project is looking to help them do that.
The Mayfly Project is taking an interesting approach to helping foster kids find their forever homes: mentoring kids through fly fishing. Founded by Jess Westbrook, the organization has its base in Arkansas, though it is expanding rapidly across the country.
“We never expected it to gain this much ground. We just started in 2015 and we’re already waaaaay past our original goal,” said Westbrook.
The idea behind the Mayfly Project is primarily to give foster kid the opportunity to have a mentor and have fun outdoors at the same time. The project also partners with another organization to film short videos of the kids highlighting their interests and personality. The hope is that prospective parents will see these videos and be more encouraged to adopt the kids within the project.
Westbrook loves what he does.
“It’s not their fault they have to go through all this, and I want them to have mentors along the way to guide them. That’s what we’re doing here with the Mayfly Project, giving kids a role model to look up to.”
He said that the most rewarding part of his job is seeing the kids find their new homes.
“We have one kid going through the adoption process. We filmed a video with him back in 2016. Great kid, lots of fun fly fishing with him. That video also brought him to the attention of a couple, nothing’s final yet, but by the end of 2017 hopefully he’ll have found his forever home. That would just be the best, knowing that we helped him achieve that.”
The Mayfly Project has even reached as far as right here in Troy. Ethan Smith is the owner of Smithfly, a local company that produces fly fishing gear. The 1996 graduate of Troy High School recently partnered with the Mayfly Project to help give the kids in the program supplies to get them started.
“It’s really rewarding,” Smith said. “Just knowing that my gear could be helping some foster kid find their forever home … it’s just a great thing.”
Smith is also looking to become a local mentor for the project.
Those wanting to support the Mayfly Project can visit their website www.themayflyproject.com or find them on social media. There is a place to donate to the project as well as a place to volunteer as a mentor or supplier for them. After all, there can never be enough helpful mentoring fly fishermen out there: though the Mayfly Project has quite a few of them.
Ryan Quinlan is a senior Trojan Tempo staff writer and contributor to the Troy Daily News