A young Austin paddles during camp 2013.

Watching our campers grow over the years is a highlight for our education staff. Every summer we get to forge relationships with kids who attend our camps to learn about the river and have fun. Year after year they come back, and it is amazing to see how they grow and change, yet still feel connected to FOR and the river.

This summer we have so many great campers that we have been getting to know over the years. For example, Ethan and Austin have been coming to camp for so long now that they have aged out of the camp program, which runs for kindergarten through middle school age campers. However, they still get to come and “play” with us as volunteers!  Ethan recently wrote a little about his experience at FOR:

Ethan as a volunteer helping with macros at camp 2018

I can no longer go to river camp since I am in high school, so I decided to volunteer and give the kids the great experience I had when I went to the camp. River camp at FOR is just such a great and informational time, that even though I can’t go to camp anymore it doesn’t mean I can’t have a great time as a volunteer and a great time helping out the kids and trying to make a memory they will never forget. 

When we asked Austin to write about his experience, this is what he wrote:

Since I was in the third grade, I’ve never missed a year without going to “River Camp” at Friends of the Rappahannock. Every year, I have had a blast! While I have attended many other summer camps, River Camp has always been my favorite. When the 2017 session ended, I thought that was the last of River Camp for me. I had aged out of their camp programs. Fortunately, Lowery Becker, Education Coordinator at FOR, invited me back as a volunteer for 2018!

Now, I get to guide other kids’ experiences at camp, while helping the staff at the same time. Our activities change every day. On one day, we might take the campers to the quarry for snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding. The next day, we might float down the Rappahannock River, which is an adventure all on its own! You never know whether you’re going to encounter quick rapids, a slow current, or a big drop. One of my favorite craft activities is when we build gumdrop structures in the game “seer, doer, and teller.” We also teach the campers about the river, including water safety.

 I love that I get to continue my involvement with Friends of the Rappahannock! Thanks, Lowery, for letting me spend a part of my summer in River Camp.

Building these long term relationships with students is part of the philosophy of our education program. No matter what course of study these kids choose or what career path they end up on, they will be ambassadors for the environment because of the time they have spent along the Rappahannock.

By Daria Christian, Assistant Director and Education Director, and Volunteers Ethan Neller and Austin Moore

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