Local Olympian gears up
Talmak Boyd is pretty excited right about now. And that’s a good thing, considering that everything has been going downhill for the 17-year-old Reynolds High School student lately. But going downhill is something Boyd loves to do — as long that hill is a snow-covered ski slope.
Boyd is packing his bags in preparation for his next ski trip, and this one’s going to be a doozy. On Feb. 20, Boyd flies to Nagano, Japan, to compete in this year’s Winter Special Olympics. His sport is Alpine skiing, and he’s one of only two athletes from North Carolina chosen to represent the U.S. at the international games.
For the past year, Boyd has been training with the Asheville Ski Club, one of several local organizations and businesses that have helped him realize his Olympic dream. “Talmak is passionate about skiing,” says club President Sam Lloyd. Boyd has been hitting the slopes nearly every weekend in preparation for the upcoming games, Lloyd reports, adding that the young athlete is a perfect choice for the games because he embodies the Olympic spirit. “Talmak is one of the most compassionate kids I’ve ever met. He loves to help people; at skiing events, he’s always willing to teach other kids what he knows about skiing — or help them up when they’ve fallen.”
Lloyd also notes that Craig Friedrich, who owns Ski Country Sports in Asheville, has played a major role in helping realize Boyd’s dream, donating all the ski equipment needed for the trip.
“You’ve got to have a lot of heart” in order to do the training and competitions, Boyd observes, saying he’s real excited about his upcoming trip. But the thing he’s most looking forward to, he notes, is the chance “to make some friends and teach other kids about skiing.”
Mayor Charles Worley, meanwhile, says Boyd’s trip is an honor for the city as well. “Asheville is extremely proud to have a resident representing the U.S. in Japan. The spirit of Asheville is reflected by all of the people who’ve given him assistance; we all join in wishing Talmak the very, very best.”
— Brian Sarzynski
Speaker Joseph Cornell wrote the book on nature education
Joseph Cornell is credited by some educators as a “father of environmental education.” His first book, Sharing Nature With Children, has sold 450,000 copies in 19 languages and is said to have sparked a worldwide revolution in school nature programs. A later work, Journey to the Heart of Nature, was commissioned by the World Scouts in Geneva, Switzerland, to help young adults discover love of the Earth. His several books now serve as popular nature-education resources all over the globe.
The author and educator travels widely from his home at the Ananda intentional community in California to teach his “Sharing Nature” activities and philosophy. To date, he has visited 23 countries and 46 states to share his ideas and methods. His travels take him to Warren Wilson College next week, where he will spend two days leading workshops and discussions with environmental education students, as well as with faculty and staff.
Cornell will speak on “Nature and Spirituality” in a free, public lecture at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at Warren Wilson’s Canon Lounge in the Gladfelter Student Center.
For more info about Cornell’s education programs, visit www.sharingnature.com. For more info about the Warren Wilson College lecture, phone (828) 771-3787.
— Cecil Bothwell
In worldliness lies preservation of the wild
Susie Wright began rehabilitating injured and orphaned critters in the late 1980s and found what seems to have become her life’s work — though she continues to hold a full-time job as a UNCA lab manager. Over the years, she has tended to thousands of animals and released them to continue their battle for survival, sometimes their battle with extinction. By the late ’90s, and joined by Mary Beth Bryman who works full-time at the Asheville Surgery Center, she created Wild For Life, a nonprofit corporation supported entirely by donations.
At present, during “the slow season,” according to Wright, Wild For Life is nursing four red-tailed hawks (two of which are recent gunshot victims from Haywood County), four screech owls, a great horned owl, a barn owl, one mourning dove, one robin and a possum. That’s in addition to five educational animals — creatures too damaged to return to the wild — which the organization uses in its many lectures and programs. By late spring, the center typically houses 50-60 patients, and treats upward of 250 animals per year.
Along the way, there have been a succession of collaborators, helpers and interns (this reporter included), who have fed nestlings every 45 minutes from dawn to dusk, cleaned cages, chopped and blended special diet foods, caught bugs, and laughed and cried at the antics and tragedies of beleaguered beasts. Two of those interns married, and are continuing their volunteer work while pursuing degrees in environmental studies at UNCA. And one of those two is a trivia nut.
The couple, Jason Carter, a McDowell Junior High School science teacher and Laura Branch, a recent UNCA ENS graduate, have supported Wild For Life with hours of volunteer work. In fact, Branch is now a full-time volunteer. But they have lately ratcheted-up their support. A lot.
Last spring, Carter’s trivia knowledge won him a slot on the ABC game show Super Millionaire, and he not only knew the right answers, he knew when to quit — not betting on the question that could have put him over the top when he was uncertain of the answer — and walked away with a cool $500,000. Last week, Carter and Branch put their money where their hearts are and donated $50,000 to Wild For Life.
Wright told Xpress, “Our entire budget last year was just over $20,000.” Wild For Life plans to invest the money and only spend the income from investments. “I want to see this organization grow,” Wright explained.
And Carter’s goal? “I want to see Wild For Life become so successful that I can get a full-time teaching job with them by the time I’m 35.”
Six years, and counting.
For more information, or to volunteer or contribute, visit www.wildforlife.org or phone (828) 665-4341.
— Cecil Bothwell