Mayfly project puts foster kids on a river with a fly rod

Mariah Shiele reacts to a fish she caught during last years Mayfly Project outing at Whites Fish Farm.

LOGAN – There is a local organization called the Mayfly Project that specializes in helping foster kids have an outdoor experience by learning to fly fish in local waters.

Last year’s Mayfly Project ended with foster kids having a successful outing.

Verlicia Perez, a Logan resident and lead mentor in the state, is the one who brought the organization to Utah a couple of years ago.

“The project started in 2015 in Arkansas and now we are in 31 states and growing like crazy,” she said. “The first year we had 15 kids and this year there are 12 kids participating.”

There are a number of volunteer fly fishing enthusiasts from Cache Valley that offer to teach the kids how to rig up their rods and use them in the nearby rivers and streams.

Perez worked in social services for some time and saw the negative effects for kids who were dealing with domestic violence, or those that lost their family unit in other ways.

“Foster kids that we work with are so used to falling through the cracks, having to share things with others, even having to compete for love and attention of others,” she said. “These children are deserving of devoted time and attention, not divided time and attention.”

Perez said Mayfly gives the kids a chance to be one-on-one with their mentor, completely engaged with another human being, and having that mentor’s sole attention and time.

“Every human being needs to feel important,” she said. “That’s how we want our foster children to feel while they’re with us out on the waters.”

Some of the kids come in to the program scared to death. This is an opportunity to bring some peace to those troubled kids.

Last year, Mariah Shiele was one of those kids.

“Mariah was a mixed race 9 year-old girl in the foster system who was adopted by white parents,” she said. “Things in her life began to deteriorate when her adopted parents got divorced, and then her new mother died and Mariah was only  six.”

The young girl was facing some real challenges.

“She’s had quite a life in her 10 years,” Perez said. “She was a miserable little girl, and then she came to the Mayfly Project. Everything changed.

Her experience is similar to others that have come through the program. Mariah began to leave her problems on the river bank.

“Besides fly fishing, Mariah loved all the bugs,” she said. “Her father Brian said she made a big change in her social skills.”

Verlicia Perez fly fishing on a pond in Cache Valley Monday afternoon.

Mariah was invited to come back this year as an ambassador, or a mini mentor. She will be an icebreaker and get the kids warmed up in a hurry.

“The highlight of the adventure is taking the kids to White’s Fish Farm, where they get to catch a once-in-a-lifetime fish,” Perez said. “One kid caught an eight pound brown (trout) last year.”

She said being near a stream or river has been proven to have a calming effect, or cause a meditative state, even on people with social disorders. She said her church is the Logan and Blacksmith Fork rivers.

On Saturday, April 25, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. the Mayfly Project will hold a fundraiser at Herm’s Inn. There will be food, live music, a casting competition and a silent auction/raffles to raise funds for The Mayfly Project. Herm’s Inn is located at 1435 Canyon Road in Logan.

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