On Thursday March 7th Wild River Academy began the trek to Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin. Excitement was in the air as we consolidated our presentable materials and overnight bags into the trunk of my car. We had spent the last week gathering blown up pictures in the form of: posters depicting scenes from our pilot trip on the Potomac River with quotes superimposed, beautifully designed postcards all thanks to Alyssa Phanitdasack and her designing prowess. We printed a banner depicting our logo and motto in all its 5' x 3' glory. This was Wild River Academy's first experience tabling at an outdoor expo and we did our best to get our ducks in a row. A major player in our success with booth materials was The Print Shop in Bloomington, MN which worked with us to stylize and complete on time all of our masterpieces.
We entered the Alliant Energy Convention Center with about 4 hours of set-up time and beautified our booth to be an eye-catching showcase of Wild River Academy. They opened the doors at 4:00pm and our day began. We were able to meet with a multitude of interested people. Some teachers, throughout the weekend, showed interest in programming through their science and history departments and grabbed multiple brochures. We met with the Bending Branches representatives and picked up our three intricate, efficient, and gorgeous paddles sponsored to Natalie, Anna, and myself as Wild River Academy Guides. Thanks Bending Branches! You guys ROCK! We met many people who showed interest and talked with us about our route, equipment, and plans for the future. Talking with people about our organization helps us to put the plans we have in our minds into conversational and easily understood words which improves our vision of the future and our ability to convey our ideas.
We debuted our idea for a trip-based group called Paddle for Change which uses long paddling trips throughout the USA to bring global environmental concerns to the public by meeting with community organizations, talking with individuals, and spreading information through local media. Specifically, we made connections with potential sponsors for a trip down the entirety of the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca to Port Eads, Louisiana. This Mississippi trip will focus on exposing the truth behind surface mining of bitumen in the Athabasca Region of Northeastern Alberta, Canada specifically from the Athabasca River. These surface mining operations leave behind ponds of excess, unusable product which often leak and are extremely harmful to the native wildlife. Ducks landing on these ponds die upon contact with the toxic contents. Our goal is to use the trip to bring awareness to a wider swath of conscientious Americans who might not have previously known about these environmental atrocities.