Recognizing an Outstanding Member of the CNC Community By Patricia Fulton, Volunteer Specialist
Each year hundreds of volunteers come out to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. They arrive early on Tuesdays and Thursdays to tend our Unity Garden, which produces 4 tons of fresh produce annually for the North Fulton Community Charities. They sign up monthly to guide guests on nature walks and remove invasive species from the grounds, and a lucky few report to the Wildlife Department to assist in caring for our wildlife rescue patients.
CNC also has volunteers who come throughout the year to help with special events. This year, I had the privilege of meeting Brandon C. at our Annual Water Drop Dash 5K. He stood out because out of the 65 volunteers we had enlisted to help with the 5K, he was the only one who stepped forward to don our iconic, oversized, furry opossum costume. Every year the opossum costumed character and the Belted Kingfisher character entertain the children, high-five the runners, and delight the crowd with their playful antics at the races.
This year, a severe storm came through the morning of the Water Drop Dash 5K. Thunder rumbled, and lightning lit up the sky as the rain came pouring down. Despite the weather, right at 5:30AM, headlights cut through the dark, and a line of cars appeared as dedicated volunteers arrived to set up for the race. We huddled indoors for the first thirty minutes as we waited for the storm to pass, and I got the chance to talk to Brandon, our designated opossum for the day.
Brandon heard about the annual Water Drop Dash 5K through work. A group of his co-workers had signed up to run the race. He wasn’t quite ready to don a pair of running shoes, but he wanted to support his co-workers, so he signed up to volunteer and brought along his sister and a friend to volunteer with him. As it turns out, this wasn’t Brandon’s first time at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.
When he was in 7th grade at Sweetwater Middle School, his science class took a field trip to CNC for a unit on ecosystems. They learned how organisms in the Chattahoochee Watershed play different but crucial roles that affect one another, directly or indirectly, and how nutrients are transmitted up the food chain. He recalled being walked through the exhibits by a staff member who went into detail on how species that inhabit the Chattahoochee Watershed are connected as if through a “web”. He jokingly added that it was in their schedule to walk outside to Beaver Pond when a huge downpour (not unlike the one we were caught in) caught them off guard, and they had to run back inside. He said he left the Chattahoochee Nature Center that day with a memory of the wildlife and natural beauty of the river.
The storm passed. Our volunteers went out to guide the runners to registration. Brandon put on the opossum costume, walked down to high-five and fist-bump the runners, and entertained the children. He did a fantastic job as an oversized opossum.
What I loved about Brandon’s volunteer story is how his trip from middle school connected him to the Chattahoochee Nature Center. His childhood experience made him want to come out to be a part of it again (even if it meant donning an oversized, furry costume of an opossum in the middle of a storm).
I want all our volunteers to know that each one of them is important. They perform different but crucial roles at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, which affects the people who visit us directly and indirectly, which means they, too, are part of an intricate “web” that connects us all.