By CRA News Service
JUPITER – When Luckson Saint Louis learned his summer program class was going on a canoeing field trip, he envisioned waterlogged people rolling through white-water rapids or the opening Hawaii Five-O scene of husky men paddling furiously in huge waves.
But less than 30 minutes into the trip along the Loxahatchee River, Luckson’s concerns and fears disappeared and he soon realized he was in for a life changing experience.
“I thought it was going to be boring and didn’t want to go,” Luckson, 10, a student in the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network’s Summer Enrichment Academy, said after finishing his first trip by canoe. “I am so glad I came. So many people, like me, say they don’t like something and they don’t even try it.”
The 15 students paddled 5 1/2 miles of meandering trails through a nature filled wonderland as part of a team-building exercise.
“This trip serves multiple purposes,” said chaperone Rachel Vanness, a police officer with the Delray Beach Police Department, which provided the transportation for the students. “We are using it to reward them for earning good grades or having good conduct as well as building their reliance on each other.”
Participants saw a variety of wildlife, including various species of birds. To the disappointment of some, they did not see any river otter, wild turkey or deer as they thought, Vanness said.
The Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental organization in West Palm Beach, which lobbies for environmental policies, sponsored the trip.
The outreach program’s goal is to provide free outings for people who don`t normally get a chance to explore nature. Inner city youngsters, mentally and physically disabled people and senior citizens are their focus.
“We`re trying to get people who don’t experience nature to go into the wilderness so that they will be concerned about the environment,” said Alyssa Cadwalader, a member of the Sierra Club and West Palm Beach Inner City Outings leader. “We want them to see another part of Florida.”
The club also sponsors more rigorous adventures, like kayaking expedition, which includes overnight campouts and overnight hikes.
The canoers, two to a boat, paddled about two hours to an area about 2 miles away. There they ate lunch, provided by Sierra Club members, and went kayaking before making the return trip to the park.
Watson Mede, 11, found the experience educational.
“You felt like you were in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “It was just so peaceful and beautiful.”
He was hoping to see a few alligators though.
“It would have been nice to see one,” he said.