Nonprofit aims to help those with mental illness through fishing

Randy Kennison Jr. stands in front of the fishing boat used for his nonprofit, Team Never Alone Fishing Inc.

Team Never Alone Fishing Inc. started as an idea Randy Kennison Jr., of Clay Center, had to advocate for and help others struggling with mental illnesses. Now, it is a nonprofit that gives people with mental struggles the chance to go on fishing trips and tell their stories.

As a military veteran who was medically discharged in 2013, Kennison said he deals with some mental health concerns of his own and understands what it can be like to struggle without anyone to help. He said he wants his non-profit to show people that they don’t struggle alone.

“I use fishing for my outlet. I suffer from PTSD and Schizophrenia, and I know it helps me,” he said. “If I struggle and that’s what I use for my outlet, I just know that others use that for their outlet.”

After deciding he wanted to give people with illnesses the opportunity to go on free fishing trips, Kennison needed to find a boat. After some searching, a veteran in the area offered him a boat free of charge for the nonprofit’s use.

With a few repairs, the boat was ready for passengers, and three weeks ago, Kennison hosted his first free fishing trip for Junction City veteran Harry Simpson.

“He really made my day,” Simpson said. “His nonprofit is going to go to good use around here, because there are a lot of guys like me that have mental and physical issues that just can’t get out or just don’t really have anybody close to talk to. … I hope it really takes off and is able to help a lot of guys, because it really helped me.”

Team Never Alone Fishing was approved as a nonprofit at the start of this month with a board of six people, and Kennison said he is still searching for more sponsors and others interested in helping the endeavor.

Kennison said the logos of the first 10 sponsors will go on the boat for the nonprofit, and all sponsors will have representation on his social media pages, which include TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

One of the ways he is getting the word out about the nonprofit is through his TikTok page, @randykennison_tnafishing, where he gives advice and shares the stories of those he meets. Kennison recently posted a video of Simpson’s answer to the question of what advice he would give to his old self and to others.

Simpson’s answer revolved around the importance of honesty; being trustworthy and being able to trust others in your life.

Kennison said that although many veterans suffer from mental illness, he understands that others who are not veterans suffer from mental health concerns as well. He wants to make sure everyone with those concerns has the opportunity to fish through the nonprofit.

Team Never Alone Fishing’s logo is a green ribbon, which stands for mental health, with a fishing pole bent around it and the words, “Team Never Alone” on it. Kennison already has merchandise with the logo on it, including t-shirts and tumblers.

“I think my biggest hope and dream would be to find different fisherman that want to work with me that I could trust and build a relationship with that would do the same thing in different states – reach out and help other people,” he said. “I want to work with other people and spread Team Never Alone all over.”

Kennison said he hopes more people will learn about his nonprofit and that those with mental struggles or other illnesses would reach out about taking a fishing trip. He said he thinks he will get more requests in the spring when the weather turns warmer.

Kennison is on Instagram at Randy_Joe_Kennison_Jr. and on Facebook under Randy Kennison. He said he hopes to have a website up and running by the spring. To contact him, call 720-810-5011 or email teamneveralonefishinginc2021@gmail.com.

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