By JIMMY McCARTHY
The 25th annual Quest came to an end Saturday as the hikers made the final turn into Russell Joy Park. With smiles on their faces, the hikers marched down the entry way of the park blowing their whistles as parents cheered and took pictures. Fellow alumni of the Quest followed the hiker's entrance.
OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy
Backpackers blow their whistles entering Russell Joy Park in Fredonia.
"We had great weather," Student Leader Sean Pecuch said. "It's the first time out of the 25 years that there was no rain. All the kids were getting along. And as a result, they have a better respect for the outdoors. There were a few difficulties, but we never leave anyone behind. We try and bring them back and we want them to succeed. The trails are their backyard. It's their memories and they are the future of the land."
The hike began Wednesday afternoon as the group of hikers was dropped off in Gerry en route to Russell Joy Park on Saturday. A total of 67 eighth graders took part, including five from Brocton. There were also 18 high school leaders and 16 adults.
"It's such a wonderful experience," Hike Leader and Fredonia Board of Education Member Michael Bobseine said. "Over the four days, you got a hundred people together, and you got to make things work. They developed wonderful qualities in cooperation, kindness, and appreciation for one another."
During the four-day hike, the students bonded together as they played games, sang, ate and had fun.
"They play like kids should," Susan Cobb, instructor and expedition leader, said. "They do not have electronics and yet they have fun. We play blog tag, elbow tag, have relay races, and the kids have fun. The activities all involve face-to-face communications. They also made friends with more members of their class."
Even though the backpackers were tired, most had smiles on their face as they made their way to their families and fellow backpacking friends.
"There's a lot of bonding that goes on," Backpacker Ryan Meredith said about the hike.
"There are a lot of games we play as we hike, and that is really interesting. It's a lot of miles. It's also physically tiring even if you are in good shape."
After the participants came back and the picnic commenced, a ceremony was held to congratulate the eighth graders' completion of the expedition. Lee Servatius, who began Quest in 1989 also congratulated the eighth graders and mentioned their arrival by saying, "You arrived an hour early."
"You sent out kids and they came back young adults," Servatius also said to the crowd.
Stephen and Susan Cobb gave special thanks to everyone involved in making the Quest successful. This includes parents and private landowners in letting them cross their land, the Fredonia Board of Education, and Tops Friendly Markets.
"There is a sense in this community that environmental education is important," Susan Cobb said. "I think the community support comes from a long history of involvement."
Servatius went on to say that it takes special people to keep the Quest going.
"Steve and Susan Cobb deserve all the credit in the world because they have done a wonderful job continuing what David Carlson and I have started," Servatius said. "I hope it keeps going for a long time."