About two dozen Mankato kids were casting fishing lines from the dock over the pond at Lions Park Wednesday morning as part of the Mankato Department of Public Safety’s Cops and Bobbers program.

School resource officer and the department’s all-around utility infielder Keith Mortenson runs the program, which offers free fishing and lunch in the park on Wednesdays throughout the summer. “We started this program five summers ago,” he explained, “To reach out to the kids, to give them something different to do rather than playing XBox – something free, because a lot of things aren’t free anymore.”

Mankato Department of Public Safety School Resource Officer Keith Mortenson.

He said transportation isn’t a barrier for kids eight to 18 that want to participate and, “Some are driven here by parents, some we actually pick up, some walk, some are close. We have two kids we pick up on the way because their parents are working and they can’t get them here.”

Mortenson said it wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community and, “We have four different vendors that supply food, a vendor that gives us worms and poles, some that give cash donations.”

The other component, he said, that makes the program work is volunteers that include former reserve officers, interns, road patrol officers, and others that all play a role in helping the kids cast a line and maybe catch their first fish.