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Volunteer Newsletter: Tales from the Trails

Bald eagle in flight. Photo by Robert Schwaan.
Photo by Robert Schwaan.

People often ask me what I am going to do with my life now that I am retired. I respond by telling them that I volunteer and plan to continue doing so. Some respond to my answer with “Why?!” I volunteer because I feel that nature often affects people in a positive and lasting way. Recently, I had a few experiences that proved this to be true.

A person close to me shared a picture of herself taken at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in 1969 when she was in elementary school. She has very dear memories of that outing that she talks about to this day. Talk about a lasting impression!

I was watching an American bald eagle flying over Long John Slough through the scopes located inside Little Red Schoolhouse. I turned around and noticed an exhausted looking father and his very active children. I asked the father if he had seen the bald eagle. He did not believe that there was a bald eagle in the area. After I showed him proof through the scope, the mood changed to one of elation and enthusiasm. He immediately called out to his children to witness the unbelievable event. I was happy to see a family enjoy the excitement together.

I was hiking with a friend and his wife in the southwest region of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. He said the area reminded him of the time he visited Little Red Schoolhouse when he was in second grade, decades earlier. He was happy to learn that the Nature Center was a short drive from where we hiked and wanted to go there immediately! My friend and his wife held hands as they headed for the White Oak Trail. He was able to share fond memories with his wife and she was able to learn new things about her husband. Together, they were able to create a new memory. If I can provide a positive and lasting experience for at least one person, I feel that my volunteering efforts are worth it.

Explore. Enjoy. Protect. Volunteer.

By Robert Schwaan, Forest Preserves volunteer.