Remember the time when only privileged youth got to go to summer camp and slackers went to summer school. Well thanks to the Kenai Watershed Forum, the talents of Dan Pascucci, and members of the community local kids have had the opportunity to attend the greatest combination of summer camp and summer school ever assembled and known as “Fur, Fins, Feathers, Flowers, and Fun!” The program now in its second year was seeded with a $25,000 grant from ConocoPhillips, $20,000 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and this year a $10,000 contribution from Hilcorp Alaska. “It is so cool to see how a program can engage learning in such a fun environment. These hands-on experiences are invaluable and ones these campers will always remember. What a great way to spend a summer week,” said Lori Nelson, Manager, External Affairs for Hilcorp Alaska. “It is often said an investment in youth is an investment in the future. ConocoPhillips, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Hilcorp Alaska have embraced this philosophy as well as the mission of KWF by their cornerstone support of KWF Summer Camp. It is through their generosity that KWF Summer Camp has come to fruition. Their support helped launch this idea and has given KWF the opportunity to build a solid foundation for this camp,” says Josselyn O’Connor, KWF development director.
When Froso Charalambous, owner of Froso’s Restaurant and Merrill Sikorski, creator of the Caring for the Kenai program, heard of the new camp they decided to create a “Merrill-tini” night to celebrate Forso’s new sushi bar and to raise funds for any youth between the ages of 6-16 who couldn’t afford the day camp tuition. The first year thanks to Charlie Weimer, V.P. of First National Bank of Alaska, Wal-Mart and Dr. and Leonor Araoz-Fraser and Froso’s Restaurant nearly $4,000 was raised for scholarships. This spring Froso’s sponsored another “Merrill-tini Night” that doubled the scholarships available for local kids. “Merrill-tini Night is a wonderful thing and spending time here today with Dan and Hana and these kids makes it all worthwhile when you see the lessons these kids are learning with the biggest smiles you’ll see on any kid that is learning while having fun, it’s a privilege to have a talent like Dan and Hana in our community,” said Weimer while visiting a camp session at Soldotna Creek Park last week. “Actually, I’m privileged to hang out with these kids and make new friends and have a chance to connect our kids to this wonderful place where we live,” replied Dan Pascucci, KWF education director. “It’s just really, really fun I want to come back next year,” squealed 10-year-old Raven.
KWF weekly Summer Camps will continue through August 10th and for more information log on to www.kenaiwatershed.org and click on Summer Camp information and scholarships. To find out what a Merrill-tini is you’ll have to attend next year’s Merrill-tini Night at Froso’s in Soldotna.