By Carlos Correa

STOCKTON (CBS13) — An organization is working to reduce gun violence in communities throughout the region by offering a free program aimed at young people with most of the activity taking place along the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers.

Timothy Poole is a survivor and was once a victim of a violent crime. He says he’s lucky to be alive.

“I got paralyzed in my left leg. I’ve been shot in the mouth, came out of my neck. I got a bunch of holes in me,” said Poole, who is the CEO of Hooked on Fishing, Not on Violence.

Poole has spent the last 20 years healing and mentoring children through his nonprofit. The organization offers structured, safe and fun activities that provide learning opportunities.

“What we are trying to do, and what we are doing is taking the guns from our kids, out of their hands and replacing it with a rod and reel in their hands, because one thing I know and two things for sure, if you teach a child to fish today, he will eat for life,” he said.

The program teaches children how to fish and the rules and regulations of fishing. But, that’s not all. They go on hikes and spend plenty of time in local parks, exploring, learning and playing soccer and other games.

“It’s helping me, like stay away from bad stuff like gang related stuff,” said 10-year-old, Kaleo Dacruz.

The offices are filled with poles; that means no child is ever left out of having fun. They get to learn fish biology, how to identify common fish species and develop life skills.

“I’m learning patience and not to get upset at other people when they make mistakes. So, if someone else’s line gets wrapped up in yours, it’s not their fault. So, be patient it will get worked out,” said C.J. Malone, 12.

The program is free to all children and helps them stay far away from the violence and crime many have experienced in their own neighborhoods.

“I figure if we keep them busy for the summer, doing something new and constructive, that they will stay out of harm’s way and that is our main goal to just keep our kids safe,” said Poole.

Most of the fishing poles and supplies needed for the program are all donated by the community. Organizers are preparing for a benefit concert this weekend at the Simmons Community Center in Sacramento.

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