CU Volunteers Help Out at Tennessee National Park

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Gintare and her group in Tennessee.

Gintare Ambotaite, a student at the University of Colorado, recently returned from a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee along with fellow students, as part of the Alternative Spring Break program at her school. Gintare was given this opportunity through a Casey Feldman Memorial Fund scholarship, and although she said it was not an easy task,  added, “It was an eye opening experience because it showed me that a little effort can go a long way.”

The fourteen students in Gintare’s group spent time digging water bars that would prevent rain or snow from damaging the trails in the mountains and preserving the trails in order to help the community and others enjoy this spectacular national park. Gintare said she loved learning about their environment from the locals. “It was amazing getting to know them, especially a man named Troy who was in his late 50s and has lived his whole life in Cosby. He told me the years he spent working the park and how much this place mattered to him,” she said. “Troy’s story inspired me to work harder because I knew that it was of high value to many people in the area and those who come to enjoy the views of this beautiful national park.”

In addition to preserving and beautifying, Gintare’s group was faced with challenges, including a snowstorm on the way to their destination in Kansas, as well as another snow shower in the camp site. This only made their group grow closer. “I probably wouldn’t have bonded with the people as close as I did and learned as much if it wasn’t for the obstacles we had to face,” she said.

Gintare’s group was also educated about organic crops on Sulfer Creek Farm. The farm’s supervisors invited the volunteers to their home and spoke to them about the importance of organic crops and what they have been doing to promote them to the public. This made her appreciate the food she grew up eating as a girl in Lithuania, she said, and made her cautious about the food choices she makes today.

Gintare said she was very grateful to the Casey Feldman Memorial Fund for allowing her such an opportunity as this. She added, “spending a week with people who wish to give back to the world made me believe that Casey’s memory will continue to live on for many years to come.”

Related Links and Posts:

Helping our children experience the gift of helping others, article in the Fall CU Parent Newsletter by Casey Feldman’s parents, Joel Feldman and Dianne in which they discuss the establishment of the Alternative Spring Break scholarships in Casey’s memory.

Casey Feldman Inspiration video , produced by CU Boulder broadcast journalism student Kylie Bearse and which aired on CU Boulder TV News, concerning the Alternative Spring Break program and the scholarships established in Casey’s memory.

Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation News and Updates – University of Colorado/ Alternative Spring Break, all of the Foundation articles concerning the Alternative Spring Break scholarship program

University of Colorado – Boulder Volunteer Resource Center , volunteer office at CU which organizes the Alternative Spring Break trips

Who are the faces in CO of the Casey Feldman Memorial Fund?

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

This March, several students from the University of Colorado at Boulder will be spending their spring breaks doing service with a program called Alternative Spring Break. Just as Casey dedicated her time to volunteering and reaching out to others, these students are using their time off to travel to different areas of the country and volunteer their time. With the help of the Casey Feldman Memorial Endowment Fund, these seven students have now been given this opportunity. Who are the faces of the Casey Feldman Alternative Breaks Endowment Fund?

Gintare Ambotaite, Nashville Area, TN

Growing up in Lithuania, Gintare was able to experience nature and farm life before moving to New York City. Though she has volunteered with various organizations including God’s Love We Deliver, the environment has always been a priority for Gintare. Her group will be traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and will work on trail building as well as learn about the logistics of organic farming on Sulfur Creek Farm.

Danielle Sandoval, Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless

Danielle’s trip to Cincinnati will allow her to work with various organizations committed to working on hunger, homelessness, urban poverty and racism in the Cincinnati area. She feels that alternative breaks will be an opportunity to spread the word about the impact that each life can have on another. Danielle has volunteered with Invisible Children, which works to fight against child enslavement in Northern Uganda and To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit that works to battle addiction, suicide, self-injury, and depression.

Amy Aberra, New Orleans Disaster Relief

Amy will be volunteering in New Orleans during her spring break. Originally from Ethiopia, Amy says that she shares Casey’s passion for helping others, right down to donating her prom dress and volunteering in a soup kitchen. With goals such as improving environmental awareness, and eventually running her own clinics, schools, and orphanages, her work in New Orleans is very fitting. Amy’s volunteer work will include rebuilding homes in the Lower Ninth Ward, helping out at local shelters, working with youth, and assisting community members to access social service.

Tsion Zergaw, New York, NY

Tsion will be heading to New York during her spring break, where Casey spent her college years at Fordham University. Tsion says she was attracted to Alternative Breaks because of the exposure to real life struggles. Along with eleven other volunteers, she will be working with a non-religious group called God’s Love We Deliver, to prepare and deliver meals to those living with HIV/AIDs in New York, a cause that was also close to Casey’s heart.

Ricky Bell, Catalina Island, CA

Inspired by Casey’s story, as well as the first victim of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, Ricky Bell says that he is motivated to do service and make a difference. In high school, as part of “Rachael’s Challenge,” a club that he helped to create, students got together with the purpose of promoting positivity, standing up for others, and standing up for what is right, inspired by the club’s namesake, who had dedicated her own life to service, similar to Casey. Ricky will be traveling to Catalina Island in California to participate in various environmental projects.

Lauren Carter, Catalina Island,CA

Lauren’s compassion for both humans and animals is a quality that she shares with Casey. She has volunteered at the Boulder Humane Society, taking care of cats and dogs, just as Casey had done at Animal Haven in New York. Lauren will be embarking on a trip to Catalina Island, CA, working with the Catalina Island Conservancy, an organization that is dedicated to restoration and preservation of the land and waters of the island. In addition to being passionate about animals, Lauren says that helping the environment has always been close to her heart.

Veronica Lamas, Urban Poverty, Atlanta, GA

Just as Casey volunteered at soup kitchens, Veronica volunteers on Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen so that families may have a decent meal. Growing up as a daughter of immigrant parents has made her want to help out low-income children by being a mentor, she says. Working with impoverished youth in Atlanta will allow Veronica to directly serve in the community. Her main goal is to “touch people’s hearts by helping them with their problems,” she says, “because everyone deserves to be happy regardless of their financial situation.”