My love of the outdoors started from as young as I can remember. I grew up in the small town of Dundas, Ontario, a community nestled below the Niagara Escarpment and rightfully nicknamed The Valley Town. It was growing up here that made me fall in love with the outdoors. The area is richly filled with trails, waterfalls, and conservation areas to visit all year round. I grew up on a street called “Ravine Drive” so being able to explore the outdoors was literally at my doorstep. Now that I think about it, I should take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my mother for always returning home from that ravine covered in mud—my idea of a good time.
As we celebrate Youth and Nature this month, it made me realize how much my appreciation for the environment started when I was a kid, and how I probably wasn’t alone in thinking that. So, I asked a few of my fellow WWF Pandas to share some of their standout memories as kids outside. Here is what a few of them had to say:
“As a young boy, I lived in England in a small farming village. We lived in harmony with nature – everyone’s livelihood depended on that. Of course, as a seven year old I wasn’t thinking about employment at the dairy behind our house, or how everyone’s compost heaps and gardens produced good healthy local food. My thoughts were on the stream at the end of our property, where I spent endless hours with my friends Johnny, Colin and Gary Betts mucking around in the water and in the nearby bog, surrounded by birds, minnows and frogs, and the odd lost sheep. I remember once I went too far into the bog and got stuck, and my wellington boot came off, never to be seen again. Johnny, who was the oldest, had to help me get out of the bog, and I walked home with a boot on one foot and a muddy sock on the other. Needless to say, my mum and granddad were not too impressed – but I had had a great day mucking around in nature!
– David Miller, President & CEO
“Starting when I was about 8 years old, my family had a tradition of going to a resort on Kashagawigamog Lake for a week in the summer to meet up with my aunts, uncles and cousins. It was always a week of being entirely outdoors – canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, scavenger hunts in the woods, and spending time with family we didn’t often get to see. Every year I looked forward to leaving the city behind for some quality time out in nature.”
– Heather Crochetiere, Freshwater Program Coordinator
“I’ve been so lucky as to never have lived far from the water. I was born in Charlottetown, PEI, and since moving west, have always lived lake-front — in Oakville, Kingston and now Toronto. When I was a kid, my dad raced sailboats for fun, and I spent most weekends at the yacht club with my parents and their sailing buddies, listening to “Red, Red Wine” on repeat and helping oil the teak. When I was 9, my dad signed me up for two weeks of sailing lessons, but despite having been around boats and water my whole life, I was terrified and, every night before bed, begged my dad not to send me back. (My brother and I had watched Jaws together at some point…) To no one’s surprise, I never made much of a sailor, but if there’s one thing that sailing camp taught me, it was to respect nature. I have an infinite amount of respect for (one might say healthy fear of) the water especially, and helping to ensure the fair treatment of our most precious resource has always been high on my priority list — right alongside facilitating positive nature experiences for children, which could also have something to do with the trauma of sailing camp.” – Kendal Gerard, Youth Engagement Officer
Stayed tuned as we share a few more staff stories in the coming days. What are you favourite childhood memories of being outside?
It’s time to get outside and clean your local shoreline! The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is taking place across the country from September 20-28. Sign up today at shorelinecleanup.ca!