BY ABBY WIDELL —
Students travel to the Everglades
Best Buddies spent their spring break canoeing and camping in the Everglades from March 23 to March 30. The group flew into Fort Myers and was greeted with a 12-mile paddle down the Blackwater River to White Horse Key on the Gulf of Mexico, where they camped for several nights.
Wilderness Inquiry, a Minnesota-based group that runs adventure vacations, organized the trip. The same group also put together previous trips for Best Buddies to Hawaii and an August camping “trial run” in Northern Wisconsin.
“We thought this particular package sounded very cool,” said Andy Carey, social studies teacher and chaperone.
The experience was a positive one, no matter what obstacles the group had to overcome. They were met with strong headwinds that greatly slowed down their canoeing, and as a result, they were forced to make camp at a closer, but different island. This one’s sandy shores were replaced entirely with sharp shells, and dusk brought in a myriad of undesirable insects including scorpions, contributing to the new name: Bug Island.
“Some of the purpose [of the trip] was to expand the comfort zone and so students began to learn more about themselves and that their limits are beyond what they imagined. They continue to expand the skills that they have demonstrated in the past,” Carey said.
The group was fortunate enough to catch sightings of dolphins and even sharks.
“Watching the reaction of the students and their enjoyment, and seeing them interacting with each other was incredible. They could rise to the occasion and conquer the fears that they had and conquer the limitations that they might have put on themselves,” Carey said.
Leading up to the trip, the Best Buddies students worked to become more familiar with what to expect. A week before departure, Christina Gagne, Best Buddies coordinator, took everyone to the airport for a look at what lay ahead.
“People think the trip is the main part, but a lot of the traveling and flying in the airport is a huge skill that the Best Buddies need to learn … everyone needs to learn that. We really make sure that they learn to travel by themselves, and while the trip is obviously the best part, it’s definitely not all we are getting out of the experience,” said Noah Wolfe, junior.
The preliminary planning was instrumental in the success of the trip. Having had prior experience with camping and canoeing from the August expedition made a large difference.
“I would love to have a video clip of us setting up camp that first night in August and then one now to show how much smoother it went in terms of people learning what they are supposed to do,” Carey said.
The club participated in a few fundraisers such as Culver’s Day and a Ticket King Packer ticket raffle, but the students financed the rest of the trip. However, recent anonymous donations brought in upwards of $2,500, which significantly cut costs.
“People see this as a great cause and decide to give money to support it,” Carey said.