Gracie Lovell’s older brother so enamored her with stories after he returned from a Junior Ranger program at Mistletoe State Park that she enthusiastically asked to sign up.
Now gearing up for her third Junior Ranger program, Gracie and brother Ethan want to share their excitement with others.
“The first thing I liked was when we went on a nature walk,” said 7-year-old Gracie. “I also liked the canoeing.”
About to take part in his sixth program, Ethan, 9, prefers the outdoor activities.
“Last time I went, I loved the canoeing and hiking,” said Ethan. “I also liked the geocaching a lot.”
The homeschooled siblings from Evans say they enjoy spending time outdoors and the programs at Mistletoe State Park allow them to participate in activities they might otherwise miss.
Gracie and Ethan’s grandfather, Fred Lovell, first thought about signing the children up for a Junior Ranger program.
“My dad signed Ethan up that first time,” said Steven Lovell. “From that time on, he was hooked. We’ve faithfully gone every single time they’ve offered a program.”
It wasn’t long before Gracie was hooked, as well. Now, the Lovell children, along with their father and grandfather, attend the programs together.
“The reason I stayed that first time was because I didn’t want to take my grandson up to the lake and leave him,” said Lovell. “I do a lot of camping, hunting and fishing myself and love the outdoors, so I asked if it was OK if I stayed and helped out.”
Since then, one or both adults have attended.
“We’ve helped build fires, chop wood and (roasted) hotdogs,” said Fred Lovell. “Quite frankly, I’ve learned a little bit myself.”
The Lovell children will participate in the June 13 Junior Ranger program, which will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is designed for ages 6-12. The cost is $25 per child.
“Children will learn about wild animals that make their home at Mistletoe and participate in some fun animal activities,” said Brenda Bettross, program assistant at Mistletoe State Park and organizer of the Junior Ranger programs.
“I’ve loved it since the beginning and Miss Brenda is a great teacher,” Ethan said.
Also planned are a nature hike, hotdog-roasting and birdhouse-building.
Bettross said having children eagerly attend multiple programs is exciting.
“When children participate in more than one Junior Ranger program, it shows us they enjoy what we are doing and learn from the experience,” she said. “I feel the more they are exposed to our natural resources, the bigger impact we can have on young people caring for it in the future.”
For more about the Junior Ranger program, call the park at (706) 541-0321.