It took me four years, but I finally made it to Cleanup the Cuyahoga this weekend! In case you’re not aware, this is an annual event held in Kent where your main goal is to collect as much trash as possible.
Doesn’t seem like how you’d want to spend your Saturday morning?
Well, let me elaborate.
Every year, Crooked River Adventures hosts this volunteer effort. For no cost to you, you have the opportunity to kayak or canoe your way down the once filthy river and are rewarded with a six-inch sub, cookies and a bag of chips at the end.
Not to mention there’s the potential to get covered in mud and river water depending on how adventurous you are! During the event, you mosey your way down the tree-lined waterway and keep an eye out for any unnatural objects. This year we literally collects tons of garbage.
I was lucky enough to be part of an enthusiastic group who was audibly excited when they spotted a pile of garbage. I can’t think of a situation where I’ve heard such excitement to see a plastic bag wrapped around a branch or a rusty barrel poking out of a stream. It was amusing to say the least.
By the end of the 2.5-mile venture, I was soaking wet from the waist down, obtained a scratch on my leg while trying to dislodge a plastic, turtle-shaped sandbox from beneath several large logs and was exhausted both mentally and physically.
Yes. This is my idea of fun.
Most Saturdays I’m stuck inside at work or am catching up on sleep from staying up too late the night before. Money and lack of sleep is fun and all, but it honestly brightens your world to be part of group and do something out of the ordinary.
This is where the point of my blog comes in.
First off, kayaking in general is a great workout, especially for your upper body.
Last fall I took the kayaking course offered at Kent State (which you get credit for). Every Friday for the first half of the semester we drove down to the Mogadore Reservoir and improved our stroke techniques and safety methods.
Being on the water is a complete escape from all the stresses of life. You really feel like you’re far from home and it’s just plain peaceful. This is where the whole wellness of the mind comes into play.
The same can be said for volunteering in general.
First of all, volunteering usually gets you up pretty darn early, which may be a huge turnoff for you, but the way I see it is you’re using more hours of the day. Early risers get so much more accomplished and feel more at ease, because they’re not rushing around as much.
Don’t get me wrong. I still cringe when I hear that alarm, but it is always, always worth it.
And there are endless ways to help out. If you’re at Kent State, you can check out Super Service Saturdays. There are different options every week, transportation is provided and you almost always get free food.
Some other reasons I like volunteering is a lot of the time you get to work on a skill you wouldn’t have, see something from a different point of view and meet people.
Take the Cleanup event for example. The activity gave an opportunity to:
- Work on a new skill: Kayak equipment can be expensive and I may not have gone out of my way to rent or own it. Now I can paddle downstream like a champ and am ready to tackle white water. Okay, maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
- Different point of view: We got to see how much effort goes into keeping an area trash-free. I know I take it for granted that local parks and other outdoor areas aren’t littered with bottles and bags. Think about that next time your tempted to leave your gum wrapper on sidewalk.
- Meet people: The majority of my volunteer group was boys from Kent’s chapter of Alpha Tau Omega. I never would have had a reason to hang out with them if it wasn’t for the event.
So don’t just sit around on your computer all day! Get up and grab a paddle or pick up some trash. Or, dare I say, do both simultaneously!