Paul George Invests in OKC, Reels Youths into Experiencing the Outdoors

Paul George Invests in OKC, Reels Youths into Experiencing the Outdoors

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

There are kids throughout downtown Oklahoma City who might have never had the chance to hold a fishing pole, cast a line out into the water and see what they reel in if it weren’t for Paul George. On Monday, the dynamic Thunder forward made sure that for 13 Oklahoma City schools, children will have the opportunity to expand their horizons.

At the Chesapeake CHK|Central Boathouse along the Oklahoma River just south of downtown Oklahoma City, 45 fourth-grade students from Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village helped George launch his Paul George Foundation’s outdoor initiative, in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) and their OK “Fishing in the Schools” Program (OKFITS) this year. The program encourages students to get out into the wild in a fun setting to teach a new skill, and pastime.

“It’s really important because at this age you can really explore and really figure out what you want to do, what motivates you, what drives you and what you like to do,” George explained. “All it’s about is taking steps to achieve whatever you want to do. If fishing is what they want to do, this is the first step for them.”

“As we told the kids today, you have no further to look than Paul George to see how successful you can be in life and connecting to the outdoors is a big part of that,” said ODWC Director JD Strong.

After George made the announcement inside the boathouse that his Paul George Foundation is sponsoring the OKFITS program in 13 schools, he made his way outside where students were participating in a trio of “PG Casting Activity” stations, where they had a chance to cast reels into buckets on dry land, into the river while standing off the dock and finally, into the water while on a boat, with George as their guide.

“It’s amazing. He wasted no time coming to Oklahoma City and jumping right in and coming out and sharing his passion with us and engaging with youth and inspiring youth,” said Michael Knopp, Executive Director of the OKC Boathouse Foundation. “It spoke volumes to us. It’s special that he came right into Oklahoma City ready to serve and to give back and inspire kids.”

Despite growing up in southern California, George himself has some southwestern and southern roots. His dad, Paul George Sr., is originally from Houston, Texas and his mom Paulette is from Louisiana. Growing up in California, fishing wasn’t the most popular or well-known sport, but George Sr. became the neighborhood dad, sometimes taking as many as eight of Paul’s friends out on the lake to catch some fish and fry them up afterward. George is now carrying on that legacy with his own daughter, and with children in OKC’s schools.

“There were a lot of kids who didn’t have dads around so my father did the same thing, take kids and haul them around in old station wagons back in the day. When I had Paul, I did the same thing,” George Sr. said. “It kind brought back some old memories. It did mean a whole lot, him bringing that up.”

“Before basketball, fishing was actually the first thing I picked up,” George told the crowd of kids and community members when announcing his new initiative. “I’m glad to start this and to get this off the ground. Oklahoma is home to me, so this is fun, starting this journey.”

George and his foundation were actually the ones who reached out to ODWC and the OKC Boathouse Foundation on this initiative, showing the Thunder forward’s leadership and intentional commitment to invest in his new community.

More importantly, he’s investing in the youngest generations of Oklahomans who one day will become citizens and leaders in their own right. He knows not all of the kids his program impacts will end up adopting fishing as their hobby or passion, but he’s certain that providing a unique experience and expanding their imaginations of what is fun and what is possible will certainly have an effect.

“I hope they become amazing anglers, but it’s moreso just getting them outside and understanding the importance of getting outside,” George said. “I want to do a lot of philanthropic work. This is where it starts.”

Sharing the love. The Paul George Foundation launched its first outdoor initiative with 45 fourth-grade students from the Stanley Hupfield Academy at Western Village. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

Practice makes perfect. The day's activities included practice casting at the "PG Casting Activity." Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

13 Schools participating. George teamed up with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and their OK "Fishing in the Schools" (OKFITS) Program this year. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

Get out and play. Studies show that time spent outside is essential to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of all children. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

George: "This really touch home and I wanted to encourage these group of kids and get them out. Get them to understand what fishing did for me." Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder