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  Lake Region’s Audubon Youth Group: getting the job done. Photos & Text by Nyleen Rodriguez  

Back in May, Reinier (our President) and I had an idea that would involve our younger volunteers and one of the Audubon Centers with more need of help in our state: the Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. We decided to try and put together a trip lasting a couple of days where we would take the kids to help at the Center, and camp so they could enjoy nature too. It required planning and trying to decide how to handle the financial matters that would come with the trip. We didn’t want this to fall solely on the parents, when these kids have given so much to our facility. So after figuring out how to do this the best way possible, we formally invited 8 kids that have been volunteering at the center to join us on August 9th through the 11th for our first Youth Service / camping trip. One of the girls invited couldn’t attend, but the other 7, four boys and three girls attended: Leah and Austin Anderson, Katherine Graham, Nick Moulton, Zak Lynch, Cory Lee, and Steffanie Munguia. They were given a list of things to bring, and an Emergency Information card for parents to fill out in case of anything happening. We wanted to make sure that we covered all of our bases.

On Tuesday, August 9th, we left from the Center in two cars with all the camping equipment, luggage, and three adults plus the kids. We would like to thanks Diane Anderson for accompanying us during the trip. There was a lot of excitement, being that most of these kids have been together for a long time, so it was a great way to finish their summer vacation. We went straight to the Center for Birds of Prey and it rained all morning long. We got wet but we still were able to not only see the facilities and learned a lot from our guide and supervisor, Dianna Flynt, but also complete some inside chores until the heavy rain stopped. The kids had also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of watching a necropsy (an autopsy) of a barred owl. This was a first for all of us, and it gave some of them the chance to figure out if becoming a veterinarian would be the right path to take for their future. Once the rain subsided and we had lunch, we returned to the Center to complete some more hard labor, including cleaning up the weeds from the entrance, sides and pretty much everywhere in the Center, as well as planting some new flowers by the entrance to the main area, moving signs, and even redoing some pavers that had moved with time from their original placement.


We left at around 5pm to head to Wekiwa Springs State Park, where we would be camping for the next two days. We all pitched in to set up our tents, and the weather was actually not bad, thanks to the morning rain and the clouds that it left behind. Well, the next step was to jump in the springs and even though it was cold, nothing better after a day of hard work. The kids had a blast. Some of them even snorkeled to the crack where the millions of gallons of water come from. It was great. We went out to dinner and return to eat s’mores and tell ghost stories.

On Wednesday, August 10th, thunder woke us up, and in no time, we got out of the tents and went to one of the pavilions to cook breakfast. We thought the storm was not going to let us work at the Center that day, and particularly, we were concerned because another Audubon member, Kim Joyner, would be joining us that morning too. Unbelievably, Dianna found us something to do and we spent four hours of hard physical labor cutting trees and strong vines from the parking lot. The rain definitely helped because we were wet all of the time, but not from sweat. We did an amazing job. The cleared area was huge, and everyone helped. After lunch, we went back to the springs for one last dip before the end of the day. Reinier cooked chicken kabobs and rice, and we had lots of fun, even though we were beat up.

The kids saw so much, not only the birds at the Center, but also the wildlife at Wekiwa. From turkeys to deer to red-headed woodpeckers and gopher tortoises, the experience was unique. On Thursday morning, after breakfast, we packed up and delivered everybody to their respective homes with plans for our next trip already in our minds.

We need your support. This trip was not just a fun thing to do. The kids work hard in the name of our chapter to help another Audubon Center. So, if you ever want to contribute in any way to this activity, maybe by sponsoring a child, please contact either Reinier or Nyleen at (863) 644-5022. And if you know of any young people that want to help our chapter, please share with them this story.


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115 Lameraux Road ∙ Winter Haven, Florida 33884 (863) 259-8497