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A popular program

The success of the United Anglers of Casa Grande High School program has created the program’s greatest challenge.

The United Anglers of Casa Grande is a nonprofit educational organization located on the Casa Grande High School campus. Members of the organization are students who learn about fisheries, especially salmon and steelhead, and promote environmental awareness and activism through hands-on habitat restoration. United Anglers students operate and maintain a state-of-the-art conservation fish hatchery on the campus.

Interest in the program has exploded in recent years from around 30 students to more than 100, and now includes participants from Petaluma High School as well as Casa Grande.

Since the United Anglers program is a nonprofit and must raise all its own funds, the challenge comes in raising enough money to support the increase in membership, particularly at a time when the recent fires and disasters in other parts of the country are vying for benevolent contributions.

“I’m torn,” said program director and teacher Dan Hubacker. “We depend on support from families and businesses, but at the same time how do you ask them for donations after so many people have been affected by the fires?”

But Hubacker also said he feels an obligation to honor those, like himself, who have benefited by the program by keeping it going.

He is working with the current students to hold the Anglers’ biggest fundraising event of the year, their annual dinner at the Lucchesi Community Center this Saturday from 5-10 p.m.

“These are tough times for everyone,” he acknowledges, “but we have overcome difficult times. This is just another obstacle we can overcome.

“We started out as a dream, and it is a dream that has been shared by all those who came before us.

“To quit is not even an option.”

In addition to the dinner, the evening will include a raffle, outstanding silent auction and spectacular Wine Room Auction.

“We have some really outstanding raffle baskets put together by our students,” Hubacker said. “We have some spectacular wines donated from labels like Cline Vineyards and also Lagunitas Beer.”

An event favorite every year is the cake auction featuring creations by the students themselves. In the past, each student prepared a cake. This year, with so many people in the program, the number of cake makers had to be pared down a bit, but there are sure to be some spectacular creations.

It all goes to support the program, which has as it centerpiece its fish hatchery, one of the few in the country operated by high school students. But the program is much more than the hatchery and includes not only education, but many practical habitat and environmental restoration projects.

The course is now a University of California-approved lab science class, and will be an approved Career Technical Education Course.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited are in the process of setting up a program that will allow the high school students to visit elementary schools to share their wildlife passion and knowledge with younger kids.

Also planned is a collaboration between the United Anglers program at Casa Grande and he Marine Biology program at Petaluma High School to share knowledge and work together on selected projects.

It is all possible because of community support and a big part of that support is a dinner and fun event happening Saturday at the Lucchesi Community Center.