Pre-registration ends May 19 for the 12th annual Sgt. Jerry Mills Jr. Fishing Derby, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon June 3 at Veterans Memorial Lake.

Those who pre-register this week at the Arkansas City Recreation Center office, located at 225 E. Fifth Ave., will guarantee a T-shirt. The $5 fee also includes lunch, fishing gear and drawings for prizes.

Through its 12 years, the theme of the derby has been getting kids “hooked on fishing — not drugs.” The event is targeted to kids aged 5 to 15 years old. (Ages 5 to 8 must be accompanied by a parent.)

The first 30 kids who pre-register will receive a free fishing pole and reel, courtesy of the Optimists of Arkansas City (unless they already have received a free pole during a previous fishing derby).

The Optimists ask that if you have received a free pole in a previous year, please bring it with you so those most in need may benefit from this offer. Extra poles will be available for use as needed, too.

Tackle is being provided by Brown’s Bait & Tackle and live bait by Mike’s Bait & Tackle.

This year, fishing teams are being sponsored by Cowley College, the Cowley CourierTraveler, the Early Bird Lions Club, the Gift for Gunner Foundation and the Optimists.

An individual trophy will be awarded for the biggest fish caught, plus team prizes for most fish caught. Prizes will include Rubbermaid water jugs, small and large water bottles, Kansas Wildscape Foundation T-shirts, and Sonic gift cards.

Lunch will include hot dogs donated by Bob Mathews and cooked by the Optimists, chips, condiments, cookies, drinks, and ice cream treats donated by Schwan’s.

For more information about this event, call (620) 441-4300 or visit

Registration, prize awards and lunch all will be at the Veterans Memorial Lake picnic shelter, located at 803 W. Taylor Ave. (just west of South Sixth Street). Parking is to the east of the picnic pavilion.

About the Sgt. Jerry Mills Jr. Fishing Derby

Held annually during the first full weekend in June, when fishing is free across Kansas, the Sgt. Jerry Mills Jr. Fishing Derby commemorates the life and service of Mills while also teaching kids to love fishing.

Mills, an Arkansas City native, was killed in 2005 in Iraq. The first fishing derby was in June 2006.

Event sponsors include the Arkansas City Fire-EMS Department, Arkansas City Recreation Center, City-Cowley County Health Department, Early Bird Lions Club, Kansas Wildscape Foundation, Optimists of Arkansas City and WISH (Women In Search of Hope), as well as the various fishing team sponsors.

“This is a family event that teaches our youth to fish and enjoy the outdoors,” said Optimist Club member Gary Hale, one of the event’s annual organizers. “If a young person doesn’t enjoy regulated sports, this is the sport for them — the number-one sport.”

About the Optimists of Arkansas City

The Optimist Club of Arkansas City works for the benefit of local youth and its members believe in the giving of themselves in service to others to help their community.

The club raises and donates approximately $20,000 per year to the Arkansas City community.

The Arkansas City chapter of the Optimist Club was founded in 1981 by charter members Tommy Aguinaga, Marshall Brentlinger, Jim Brown and John Postelwait. All four still are members today.

Other members include Steve Aguinaga, Bob Baker, Dan Biddle, Felipe Escalante, Terry Flauding, President Bob Frazee, Allen Goff, Gary Hale, Garrett Heilig, Secretary Andrew Lawson, Jason Smith, Treasurer Jay Warren and Jerry Young.

The club was the February 2016 recipient of the Community Cornerstone Award. It is known best for its pork burger concession stand at the annual Arkalalah Festival and the Last Run Car Show.

Funds raised by the Optimists of Arkansas City, including all proceeds from the sale of pork burgers, go to support the youth of Arkansas City and other valuable programs in the community, including:

  • Little League football, baseball, softball, basketball and soccer;
  • Kids Voting Kansas;
  • The GE Volunteers Christmas Fund;
  • The Arkansas City High School booster club.

The Optimists of Arkansas City cosponsor the annual Sgt. Jerry Mills Jr. Fishing Derby and Bicycle Safety Rodeo events, and also assist the ACHS After Prom Committee, Boy Scouts Troop 328 and Cowley College’s ACES program with annual fundraiser meals.

The Optimists have sponsored four outdoor movies at Wilson Park since 2015.

The Optimists of Arkansas City paid about $3,000 of the startup equipment costs for the Arkansas City Police Department’s SafeAssured ID system for children and continue to purchase supplies for it.

They also honor an area law enforcement officer each year for exemplary service. In 2017, the club resumed sponsoring an annual essay scholarship contest. An oratorical contest also is planned in 2018.

The Optimists have donated hot dogs, pork burgers, other food items, and manpower to the ACHS band, After Prom, ACPD’s summer DARE Camp, City of Arkansas City employee appreciation events, the DARE Lock-in, the Fraternal Order of Police fireworks show, the annual National Night Out kickoff party, the Northwest Community Center and many other community projects throughout the year.

The local club’s meetings generally are held at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at Daisy Mae’s Café, 511 W. Madison Ave. Its next meeting will be May 23.

For more information, visit or

To become a member of the Optimists of Arkansas City and make a difference for our youth, call (620) 741-1082 or (620) 441-3757, or visit

About Optimist International

Optimist International is a worldwide volunteer organization made up of more than 2,500 local clubs whose members work each day to make the future brighter by bringing out the best in children, their communities and themselves. The purposes of Optimist International are:

  • To develop optimism as a philosophy of life, utilizing the tenets of the Optimist Creed;
  • To promote an active interest in good government and civic affairs;
  • To inspire respect for the law;
  • To promote patriotism, and work for international accord and friendship among all people;
  • To aid and encourage the development of youth, in the belief that the giving of one’s self in service to others will advance the well-being of humankind, community life and the world.

By meeting the needs of young people in communities worldwide, Optimist clubs have been “Bringing Out the Best in Kids” since 1919, according the Optimist International website.

Optimist Clubs conduct positive service projects aimed at providing a helping hand to youth.

There are 93,000 individual adult and youth members who belong to 3,200 autonomous clubs in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, and throughout the world.

Optimists conduct 65,000 service projects each year, serving 6 million young people, and they spend $78 million on their communities annually.

Optimist International is recognized worldwide as the premier volunteer organization that values all children and helps them to develop to their full potential. For more information, visit

This information was provided by Optimists of Arkansas City Secretary Andrew Lawson.