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FOR Logo Friends of the River
 The voice of California's rivers

Q & A 

Meet Our Volunteers, 2009 

The following were our well deserved Rafting Program volunteer award winners for 2009!

  • Special Thanks: Kimani Kamau for his 4 years of service to the program!
  • Gear Czar of the Year: Mike Martel from Pacific River Supply for his generous donations over the years, for sending us our new guide Jessica, for bringing Rick, Josh and Melissa into our community as well!
  • Reynold’s Wrap AwardKen Weiss and Courtnay Swart for modeling teamwork in an amazing double wrap!
  • River Quest Guide of the Year: Steve DeOreo for showing up for 9 trips, plus helping with program organization
  • Tabler/Outreach Hero of the Year: Big Bird for being the historical librarian of FOR, tabler extraordinaire, marketing man, amazing technical equipment finder, and new guide recruiter.
  • MOM (Main Off River Motivator) of the Year: Stacy Alyse Wieser for being the BBQ Maven (both MOM and Trip Organizer!), MOM for 7 days at training, meeting attendee extraordinare, and much more.
  • Swimmer Award: Josh Chang for not only swimming himself numerous times, but also invoking FOR’s family values by swimming his family a lot as well.
  • Trainers of the Year: Rex Sanders for returning to help us and staying all the way through guide training.  Nick Aghazarian for his present through the entire training, for supporting other trainers and the curriculum, for his ideas and contributions over the years, and his attitude of a lifelong student. Special thanks: Also, we’d like to thank Bret Madhvani and Richard Weiss for their supportive presence the entire training)
  • Spatula Award: Courtnay Swart and Bret Madhvani for their spectacular flips - nothing is so fine a statement of river love as the flipped boat.
  • Rookies of the Year: Jodi Shepherd for trip organizing, guiding, helping at the conservation workshop, and stepping into 2 new leadership roles the BEV new guide representative and the BEV chair!  Brian Kallen for guiding 9 days, helping in the office, and at the Stanislaus event. Special thanks: Also, we’d like to thank Ron Wu, who showed up at the river again and again and was eager to help and learn!
  • Purple Heart Award: Melony Vance, Bill Huang, Alyse Weyman, Steve DeOreo and others who sustained injury in battle. 
  • Head Guide of the Year: Steve Goforth for Head Guiding 9 FOR trips which he also trip organized for, plus co-coordinating an entire training. Special thanks: We’d also like to thank Johnathan McClelland for 10 days on river, organizing the Klamath trip, plus facilitating the creation of the BEV, being active in the Conservation, Outreach and Events Committee plus more.
  • Guide of the Year: Gabe Ross for 21 days on river, helping with training, and stepping into a BEV leadership role.
  • Spark Award: All members of the Conservation Outreach and Events Committee for leading the way in the BEV, really setting the bar for dedication to the mission, and commitment to implementing it!)
  • River Lover of the Year: Rebecca Wu for 11 days on river, Trip Organizing, marketing, filming, recruiting, tabling, driving and much much more diverse service to FOR thank you Rebecca!
Volunteers are as essential to Friends of the River’s cause - as water is to a river. Our volunteers give their time, energy, skills and resources to help save rivers through guiding, event organizing, or serving on the Advisory Committee for the Rafting Program, helping with water policy research, reaching people through tabling at festivals and events, or working in the office.

Some of our Volunteers of the Year from 2008 share with us how they came to know and become passionate about rivers and Friends of the River, what they feel about our rivers’ future, and words of wisdom if you are thinking about getting involved.

Thank you, all of our volunteers, for keeping California flowing!

Melony Vance
Melony Vance

Q: What is your first remembered river experience?

A: I spent my childhood summers on the Yuba River out of Downieville (pop  325), the daughter of a gold miner.  Those days spent playing in the  river all day were my favorite memories and the reason I moved to the Central Sierras.

Q: How did you come into the FOR family?

A: Ever since I rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I've wanted to be a river guide.  When I overheard someone talking about the rafting program at Friends of the River, I knew this was my opportunity.

Q: Favorite thing about FOR?

A: The great people I've met - from my fellow guidelings, guides and trainers, to the FOR staff, and all of the enthusiastic members who've come out to experience rafting on the South Fork of the American River.

Q: How do you see our rivers future?

A: Times are changing and so are our rivers.  Our California history didn't show much regard for our rivers, except in how they could give us access to what we wanted - first gold, then water.  However, with organizations like FOR we can change that perspective and look at rivers as resources, not only for water, but for their inherent beauty, recreational opportunities, and importance to an ecosystem that supports a huge variety of living beings.

Steve DeOreo
Steve DeOreo

Q: How did you come into the FOR family?

A: Years later, I attended Project Great Outdoors' guide school on the South Fork American River.  The following summer (2008), I learned that Friends of the River had a program called River Quest, which shares a goal similar to Project GO's:  to improve the lives and prospects of underprivileged and under-served youth by taking them rafting on the South Fork.  Well, I couldn't sign up fast enough, and I've been guiding for FOR ever since.

Q: Favorite thing about FOR?

A: Environmental activism often deals in rhetoric, incomprehensible statistics, or abstractions.  In contrast, FOR's rafting program allows us to teach a very powerful, concrete lesson about river conservation:  In the middle of a fun, exciting, sporty and scenic rafting day, we can ask our participants to ponder the connection they've made with the river that day, and then try to imagine life if the river were suddenly gone.  By helping our membership forge that actual, visceral connection to any river, I believe that we energize even the most zealous river conservationists to a new level of commitment to the cause.  I feel very lucky to be a part of that.

Q: What would you say to those newly interested in river conservation?

A: Make a personal connection to your local river ecosystem- boat it, hike it, swim in it...something!  It's much easier to want to save something if you love it.  Then find out what the local issues are, and find out how you can help.  I am not a professional activist or a river conservation expert, but I've found a way to help rivers by doing something that I truly enjoy.  I think that if everyone could incorporate rivers into their personal lives even in some small way, then the conservation battle would be a lot easier to win.

Jodi
Jodi Shepherd

Q: What is your first remembered river experience?

A: My first remembered river experience is fishing with my family in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area in the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon.  It is a place my family has camped at for decades and was always special to us.  I remember the river was clear and cold and we fished for rainbow trout.  Also, growing up in the The Dalles, Oregon on the Columbia River, the river was always a part of life.

Q: Favorite river experience? Favorite river?

A: My favorite river experience with FOR was when I was the Trip Organizer for a member outing this summer.  It was great to put everything together, all of the guides, gear, and day went very well.  The members said they had a wonderful time, I even got letters of appreciation from members on the trip.  There is a lot of work that goes into member trips and it is terrific when it all comes together.

Q: What would you say to those newly interested in river conservation?

A: Get involved!  FOR makes it so easy to become involved by getting out on the river, river education, and helping out with tabling events.  Every time I go out with FOR I learn more about the organization, river conservation, and natural history. 

Stacy Alyse
Stacy Alyse Wieser

Q: Favorite thing about FOR?

A: The community.  Amazing people from diverse backgrounds that have the common enthusiasm and affinity for the river and rafting.  There is a fantastic fellowship and people are embraced.

Q: Favorite river experience? Favorite river?

A: Every day on the river is a good day!  I really liked the natural hot springs on the East Fork Carson.  I work an intense, fasted paced job and I am constantly engaged with technology.  Being on the river allows me to unplug and connect with nature.  I can relax, be still and present in nature.  It is a great place to be!

Q: How do you see our rivers future?

A: In jeopardy.  I think it is important to educate the public with the facts so people can make informed decisions.  I work to preserve, restore and sustain free flowing waterways because I want to share this awesome experience with future generations.

Q: What would you say to those newly interested in river conservation?

A: Welcome!  Volunteer with FOR.  Get educated.  Spread the word.

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