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Share Your Special Moment

Taughannock Falls, Upstate NY (C) Deb Sharrison
Taughannock Falls, Upstate NY (C) Deb Sharrison

Despite the fact that I grew up in beautiful upstate New York, I was never really an outdoor enthusiast as a kid. When I was six years old, I remember calling my Mom crying – begging her to pick me up from nature camp because I didn’t want to camp in the woods with strangers. Thankfully, I didn’t have to return to nature camp for the remainder of the week.

That's me in the center
That’s me in the center pretending to be dead.

At the time, I was afraid of spiders, I hated getting my shoes dirty, I complained about the cold and I didn’t understand the whole “nature” thing. Thanks to my elementary school, I associated the woods with, “Don’t go near the woods, you might get shot!” I should note that my elementary school was in a rural part of town where deer hunting was permitted, so as a safety precaution, we had to keep our distance. I associated being outside with playing soccer in the Fall and baseball in the Spring – nothing more.

But I always had a fascination with wildlife. I told myself that I was going to be the next Jeff Corwin or Jack Hannah. Zoos fascinated me! As a gift, my parents gave me a DK Encyclopedia on animals, which sparked my interest in wildlife conservation.

Fast forward 19 years, which included me overcoming my fear of spiders, I find myself here, at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, working with a team of dedicated and passionate individuals who mobilize communities across the country to support our nation’s largest system of public lands, the National Wildlife Refuge System. Prior to working here, I had no idea what a refuge was and neither did my parents, despite the fact I grew up 15 miles south of one. During the past couple of holiday seasons, my extended family would always ask “How’s the animal thing going?” to which I would reply, “It’s great!” But I soon realized that I needed to show them what I work to protect, not just answer that it was a great job.

So in the summer of 2015, I had a great idea. For a family vacation, I wanted to take my parents to their first national wildlife refuge. My parents have always loved wildlife, everything from the chirping sounds of a cardinal in the winter to the pecking sounds of a harry woodpecker as it digs a hole in the side of our house. (So maybe they didn’t “love” that particular sound.) We decided on Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, packed the binoculars and headed off to Cape Cod.

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (C) USFWS
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (C) USFWS
A gray seal off the coast of Cape Cod. (C) Sean Carnell
A gray seal off the coast of Cape Cod. (C) Sean Carnell

When we arrived at Monomoy, I was so excited! I could finally talk to my parents about this beautiful place, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the entire U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and of course the Refuge Association. We went hiking along the beach, saw a ton of shore birds, and took a boat tour to see whales and gray seals for the first time. This was a very special moment for me. Here I was, as a maturing young adult, introducing my parents to something new, talking to them about something that I’m deeply passionate about, and spending quality time with them. A year later, my Mom has a fancy spotting scope, three bird guides, the i-Bird app, every critter cam app within the Apple store, and tries to get to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in upstate New York whenever she can.

All of us have special moments like this on a national wildlife refuge with a friend, a colleague, a child, a parent or grandparent. I want to encourage you to share your story and special moment with us. What was that awe-inspiring moment for you? Who were you with at the time? We want to share your story.

Share your special moment with us in the comments section below or on our social media channels.

  • Tag us in your Instagram post at @refugeassociation.
  • Tag Refuge Association on Twitter and use the hashtag #wildliferefuge.
  • Share your story on Facebook and join the conversation

For more information, please reach out to me at scarnell@refugeassociation.org or give me a call at 607.280.4331.

Thank you,

Sean Carnell

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2016/11/share-your-moment/

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