August 26, 2016

2016 Missouri River Academy

By: Melanie Cheney & Kristen Schulte, Missouri River Relief 

Imagine exploring the Missouri River by boat, learning about ecology, history and the biology of aquatic river life from experts in the field.  That is exactly what 15 high school students did during the Missouri River Academy!

 The Missouri River Academy was a five-day camp located at Camp Trinity in New Haven, MO, and supported by the U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency-Region 7. The Academy was developed and implemented by Missouri River Relief, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to the Missouri River through hands-on, on-the-river clean-ups and education events, in partnership with the Missouri Environmental Education Association.

During the Academy students were able to engage their innate sense of wonder and natural curiosity to explore the Missouri River, while increasing their knowledge and understanding of the longest river in North America! By deepening their connection and sense of responsibility for the river, these young people will become the next generation of river stewards.

Day One – We spent time getting to know each other through introductions and team builders. The students even began their Missouri River Action Projects, by choosing an issue to explore. In the days to come they focused on mapping the impact of their issue, creating issue-related goals and objectives that they could achieve in their community and develop a plan for getting community members involved. 

We wrapped up the evening with campfire songs, stories and s'mores! And it could not have been any better!

Day Two - Was all about connecting to the Missouri River in a deeper sense using observation skills. We talked about things we noticed and wondered about while drifting down the big river. Artist Elizabeth Parris led a water-coloring activity next to the Katy Trail.

After lunch we headed up the hill to gain a historical perspective of the river from author and historian David Menke. We got to ride on a tractor and take in the views of native prairies and woodlands high above the river. We could imagine what life might have been like for all the cultures that have lived on and used the river over time. It was a great first full day, with a refreshing dip in Camp Trinity’s pool.

In the evening students continued to work on their Missouri River Action Projects and even had the chance to meet up with the local astronomy club to learn about the night sky. For a lot of these students it was their first time seeing so many stars and for all of us, it was our first time seeing the rings of Saturn.

Day Three - The day started off at 94% humidity and a whopper of a rain storm! So we did what we always do, and powered through it as best we could. 

The great folks from the Missouri River Bird Observatory set up some mist nets to give us a personal view of songbirds here in the woodlands at Camp Trinity. Sadly, because of the weather, all we caught was a cardinal! But we still learned a ton about the diversity of birds in this area. 

Then it was off to the river. Mike Smith, an educator from Washington, MO, joined us for a wetland and forestry discussion. 

Today's focus was all about understanding the interconnected communities that make up the Missouri River. After a hike through the bottom lands, we did a mini-river clean-up. Six bags of trash and two tires later, and we were back to the boats! We now have a deeper understanding of how humans impact this river, in both positive and negative ways. 

After lunch, we were joined by commercial fisherman, Cliff and Kathy Rost, along with MDC Big River Specialist Joe McMullen, who took us out fishing with gill nets! We got up close and personal with several different Missouri River fish, and even netted a few turtles! 

To wrap it all up, the Rosts brought us a special snack, caviar! Lucky for us, it turned out to be just another great day on the Missouri River.

Day Four – Was our last full day of the 2016 Missouri River Academy! Today was all about our human connection to the Missouri River. We began our morning with a phone conference with Janet Moreland, solo expedition paddler who was paddling the entire length of the Mississippi, and, in 2013, was the first woman and American to descend the Missouri River from source to sea! 

We spent some more time with historian David Menke in downtown New Haven, imagining what it was like when the steam boats arrived, taking a deeper look at the history of this town, how the area developed over time and the complexities and interactions of economic, environmental and social systems on the river. We also got to hear some really cool stories about New Haven legend and Mountain Man John Colter. 

Then it was over to Avant Garden CSA and the Riverfront Cultural Society! Carissa Cole gave us an idea of what it was like to farm this area and run a local business, while sharing some excellent produce. 

We headed to Hermann, and toured the Hermann Sand & Gravel operation where we learned all about the giant piles of sand and rock dredged from the Missouri River, and what it's like to work on a barge with Kathryn Ann Engemann, who just happens to have a tow boat named after her! 

Lastly, we headed over to the Public Works to learn what happens to the water when we flush the toilet. From history to the economics of a river town, and the environmental variations that shape this place, we took it all in stride as we went in and out of one of the hardest rain events we'd seen this week!

Day Five– Was all about connecting others to the Missouri River. Students worked hard to wrap up the last of their Missouri River Action project, a champion was named in our “Missouri River Olympics,” a game that we played throughout the week.  

In the afternoon, we headed over to the New Haven Old School House for lunch and to prepare for our Missouri River Action Project presentations. Parents, siblings, community members, teachers and friends all arrived to learn about what issues on the Missouri River sparked these young people’s interest, and the outreach and education plans that they had developed to address a specific issue in their community. The students shined and the audience asked great questions.

At the end, one student said “we engaged with so many different ideas and activities, that everyone really enjoyed. And I met so many presenters that I want to get to know further, outside of the Academy.” 

Another student said “I enjoyed every second of the Academy and I hope that I get to come again next year”. The Missouri River Academy not only engaged their innate sense of wonder and natural curiosity to explore the Missouri River, but also their desire to want to know and understand more about the longest river in North America grew!
  • View a few of the photo highlights that we enjoyed during the Missouri River Academy.
Last but not least, a big shout-out to all of the individuals and organizations, who helped make the Academy possible this year:

August 21, 2016

2017 Solar Eclipse along the Missouri River

The "Line of Totality" crosses the river 8 times - take your pick!

by Steve Schnarr, Missouri River Relief

One year from today will be a super-duper treat here in the middle of Missouri. We’ll experience a total solar eclipse! On August 21, 2017, the path of a total solar eclipse will pass from coast to coast in the United States, arriving mid-day through Missouri. While the greatest extent of the total eclipse will be in southern Illinois, mid-Missouri's experience will be just a few seconds shorter. 

For Missouri River lovers across the state of Missouri, we are really lucky. The “Line of Totality”, which represents the location where  the eclipse will be complete for the longest amount of time (almost 3 minutes along the totality line – with partial coverage lasting almost 3 hours), crosses the Missouri River 8 times. PLUS it crosses the Mississippi River once. 

Now if you thought to yourself…there’s no place I’d rather watch the solar eclipse than on an island on the Missouri River, then you are really in luck. The line of totality passes either through or within several miles of five different islands. During relatively low water flows, three of those islands are big sandbars, with massive views of the sky (one of them isn’t really an island anymore, although it is still called an island…more on that below). Interestingly, four of those islands are part of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge. 

NASA has put together a great interactive map showing the path of totality. Check it out!

NOTE - Sure we are obsessing with this line - it's visual and it's fun. But you don't have to be on the center line of the "path of totality" to see the total eclipse. You can be 15 miles away and only miss a few seconds of it. The further away you are from the line the more of the total eclipse you miss (it is a parabolic curve). Play around with the interactive NASA map, or the Xavier Jubier map to see how different locations have different lengths of totality. 

So where are these spots on the river we can get the best experience of the eclipse? 
(I’ll add Google waypoints and additional directional and eclipse timing info here when I get time)

1. St. Joseph, MO – 

(crosses the river at Rivermile 447.3) - The line of totality runs just south of downtown St. Joseph. There is an island about 10 miles upstream of here – Worthwine Island Conservation Area (rivermile 457), but it doesn’t generally have a nice sandbar viewing area. 

2. Hill’s Island – near Waverly, Grand Pass, Malta Bend – 

(crosses the river at rivermiles 288, 279, 276.5) – On this large mitten-shaped series of bend in the river, the line of totality crosses the river three times in just 12 miles of the river. Best spot on the river for viewing? Remote Hill’s Island (rivermile 281). When the river is moderate to lower flows, you can count on a massive sandbar here. This is part of Cranberry Bend Unit of the Big Muddy Refuge. Hill’s Island is only two rivermiles north from the line of totality. 

3. Jameson Island – Arrow Rock, MO – 

(crosses the river at Rivermile 211) The line of totality crosses the mouth of Jameson Chute, which runs through Jameson Island Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. From Arrow Rock, you can follow the Lewis and Clark Trail down to the river bottoms. The spot where the trail stops at a sandbar by the river is almost exactly the line of totality. Bring your bugspray for the walk through the forest, but they should calm down once you get to the river. If the river is flooding this trail will not be accessible.  If you have a boat or canoe, though, the largest (and perhaps the highest) sandbar on the Lower Missouri River is just 2 1.2 miles upstream, at about rivermile 213 (Saline County side – right bank descending).

4. Franklin Island Conservation Area – near Boonville, New Franklin – 

(crosses the river near rivermile 193) – Franklin Island isn’t an island anymore, but there is an island across the river (Boonville side) from it! Unfortunately, it’s a pretty steep banked island that doesn’t generally have a nice sandbar viewing area. Just downstream is the Overton Bottoms Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, with several nice sandy beaches at lower river levels. 

5. Airplane Island (or Tadpole Island) – near Huntsdale, Lupus – 

(crosses the river at rivermile 179) – This sandbar emerges at about 13.5 feet on the Boonville gage. Just one mile downstream of Katfish Katy’s boat ramp. This is part of the Overton South Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge. However, the Corps of Engineers is doing a construction project on this sandbar during the winter of 2016-17, so we hope the sandbar still exists in 2017. 

6. St. Aubert’s Island – near Mokane, MO – 

(crosses the river at rivermile 123) – St. Aubert’s Island Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge is only an island at high water, really. At low water there are some beaches, but nothing really outstanding. The line crosses the river just a couple miles downstream of the Mokane MDC Missouri River Boat Ramp. 

7. Rockwood Island - (OR Grand Island) - Mississippi River 

(crosses the Mississippi River at Rivermile 101) - The "line of totality" crosses the Mississippi River at one location, right through the beautiful sandbar at Rockwood Island, 8 miles downstream of Chester, IL. However, still within just a few miles of that line is one of the most scenic spots on this stretch of the Mississippi - the Grand Tower Rock at rivermile 80. If you pick that historic power spot, you'll only miss a few seconds of full totality. Here's the Rivergator page for more info on the Grand Tower Rock. 

This is the map for Rockwood Island.

See you on the river!!!

NOTE - these maps were generated using Xavier Jubier's interactive eclipse map using Google Maps! Check it out

We'll post more details here as we have time. 

See you on the river!!!

NOTE - these maps were generated using Xavier Jubier's interactive eclipse map using Google Maps! Check it out

January 28, 2016

2015 Missouri River Relief Awards Banquet

Saturday, January 23, 2016

at the historic Hotel Frederick, Boonville, MO


The Missouri River Relief "crew" is an amazing group of people. These are the volunteers that form the heart of this organization. They help organize events, drive boats, cook food, travel all over the watershed, provide the human infrastructure and staff at clean-ups, and then they give the energy and love that keeps it all going.

More than your normal non-profit, these folks form a tribe. An always growing and caring family of river lovers that want to share the river with others.

One of the ways we try to honor this tribe is through our annual "Post-Holiday" awards banquet. In addition to our dedicated crew members, we also use our time to honor many of River Relief's partners & sponsors, without whom we would not be able to execute these community events up and down the river. We get by with a little help from our friends... for a full 2015 reveiw... be sure to check out our "Story of 2015" page.

We start with the "Special Recognitions" followed by our Annual Awards. Although the banquet took place in 2016, the awards are for 2015.

2015 Special Recognitions 

Stream Team Super Heroes Award 

Given to Stream Team 5168 - The League of Watershed Guardians

In the eastern part of the state of Missouri, there must be something in the water. It’s like the opposite of kryptonite…something that magnifies the super powers of those that love their rivers, giving them remarkable abilities like spotting half-buried tires from a speeding car, levitating vehicles from gravel bars, and, rumors say, walking on water while vacuuming up beer cans from the bottom. This strange substance also seems to atrophy the part of their brain that says things like…”No way can we do that”.

It’s been both an exciting and trying time on our West Coast, at present many of these unique and powerful individuals are coming together from their native creeks and rivers in the Meramec and Mississippi watersheds to form a powerful new alliance. One of the hardest things Missouri River Relief had to do in the early years was to put in place all of the legal and organizational tools that an effective volunteer-based group must have if it is to survive and prosper. To accomplish that goal requires smart, dedicated people willing to wade through the raft of problems associated with creating a viable and sustainable entity.

This emerging association of river stewardship veterans is now turning their assets of persistence, dedication and inclusive thinking to the task of forging a working partnership that will encompass an entire region to promote stream education, stewardship and advocacy. Plus, they let us send them to the gnarliest possible clean-up spots on the Missouri River and where their super powers can shine. We recognize them tonight as recipients of the 2015 Stream Team Super Heroes Award.  They are Stream Team 5168 - the League of Watershed Guardians.


2015 Missouri River Hero

Given to Paul Lepisto, Izaak Walton League Missouri River Initiative

A perfect example of what Missouri River Relief has envisioned as “MoRATs”or “Missouri River Action Teams” working up and down the river, this Missouri River Hero has taken a pro-active stance on trash since we first met him back in 2008.

He has plugged in to help Missouri River Relief at clean-ups in Yankton, Sioux City and Omaha.  Since then, Paul has helped organize his own river clean-ups focused on the Rec River reach in Yankton, Pierre and Fort Pierre, SD along with many partners.   In six years, they have removed more than 15 tons of trash!

Paul helps provide leadership for more than just Missouri River clean-ups, he’s helped  expand activities to include a school festival, river rendezvous and clean boat event, educating the public about the river, and conservation.  With a new educational grant, Paul and the Izaak Walton League of America are targeting residents to ask for their help in preventing litter from entering storm sewers and washing into the Missouri River.  “Something in the gutter today, is in the river tomorrow,” he says.  He looks forward to the day that river clean-ups will be “put out of business”.  

He is the organizing chair of a new “Friends of the Missouri National Recreational River” group and serves as the regional conservation coordinator for the Izaak Walton League of America, working on issues affecting the Missouri River.  Paul also serves on the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, to provide guidance to the Army Corps of Engineers on their remediation efforts on the

These organizations will provide opportunities for more fundraising, advocacy and action for Missouri River projects well into the future. Please, give it up, for our 2015 Missouri River Hero, Paul Lepisto.


River of Big Canoes Award

Given to Kent and Susan Robinson, Osage Paddle Sports

Paddle sports have become a staple in Missouri River Relief’s outreach and fundraising efforts. Since the start of the MR340 Race, canoeing and kayaking on the Missouri River has exploded. The strong community that has grown around racing has helped our organization in so many ways, from sweat equity to event planning, fundraising and networking.

This award recipient had tremendous success with not one, but two first year river races in 2015 as a benefit for Missouri River Relief. In 2015, Osage Paddle Sports was born and brought us the “Spring 12” in May – a 12 mile paddle race from Mariosa to the mouth of the Osage River and back to Bonnots Mill (with a headwind in both directions!), and the “Fall 36” in October – a 36 mile race from the Osage, down the Missouri and up the Gasconade. These two river races, put on by one guy and a lot of help from his family helped raise more than $1,800 for the organization. + both races included an incredible whole hog roast! It just doesn’t get any better than that! We’d like to recognize a very hardworking, and hard paddling friend of River Relief, Kent Robinson and his family of Osage Paddle Sports.


The Stealth Baumer Award

Given to Francis Baum, MRR Board and Crew Member

The next award recipient is one of our downriver treasures. It can be difficult to pry him from his home ground because his family needs him and many other groups seek his talents but he has been our steady “go-to” guy for many years and we want to highlight his often unseen gifts to River Relief.

First, he has been a consistent crewmember at clean-ups and helped with many functions at our campsites—including keeping a watch on the night sky for the orbiting space station. He has become our dependable “go-to” guy in the St. Louis area, participating in away teams like Operation Clean Stream, Confluence Trash Bash and Mississippi Earthtones in Alton, Illinois. He helped at the frigidly cold Alternative Spring Break on Pelican Island while also serving as a liaison with the Boeing Environmental Employees Program (or BEEP) to provide funding and “green team”crews at cleanups in the area. He attends grant meetings to help with fundraising and sets up River Relief booths at festivals. 

If that isn’t enough, he has provided us with GIS data layers showing the location of schools near the river and low-lying places where trash accumulates on shores and islands…  We think Francis Baum is rarely noticed as he works out of sight for Missouri River Relief and we want to honor him with the Stealth Baumer Award for keeping the home fires burning on his home waters.


Student of the Year Award

Given to Heidi Allemann

Can you imagine exploring the Missouri River for the first time by boat, learning about ecology, and history from experts in the field? This is how 12 students, spent a week of their summer with our “Big River Experience” program. Of these 12 amazing students, one young woman demonstrated exceptional passion and commitment to learning about the Missouri River. She burst with excitement when Ruthie Moccia lead a watercolor lesson, she sat on the edge of her seat listening intently to Janet Moreland’s adventures down the Missouri River, and found the things often over looked by others the most fascinating, such as this spider web (picture of her with the spider web).  Please help us recognize this year’s Student of the Year, Heidi Allemann.


Navigational Marker Award

Given to Darcy Higgins, MRR Education Committee, Wild Wonder

The next award recipient has assisted tremendously in marking the channel of Missouri River Relief’s educational programs; her independent contributions serve to guide future opportunities for educational programming. In addition, she has contributed to the development of our educational philosophy, the recent establishment of three core competencies, and the development of our education program components. Most impressively, she created a comprehensive map of all of the elementary, middle and high schools within a 0.5 mile, 10 mile, and 20 mile radius of the Missouri River. This map will be an invaluable resource, allowing us to identify opportunities to work with schools up and down the river in the future. Please help me in thanking Darcy Higgins for the work that she has done in plotting our course for the future.


Favorite Family Award

Given to Jax and Eva Acton

Previous winners – Stew & Crew, the Richmonds, the Franks, the Penningtons, the Hemmelgarns and the Matterns.

This year’s favorite family proves that good things come in small packages…When these two descend upon a River Relief crew camp, we know fun has arrived.  Watching our little bug flit, fly, dance, laugh, and keep us all on our toes is merriment to the max…  And her mother, the resilient, strong, hardworking, rousing spirited, good hearted, and down-for-the-team amazing gal, is who we all know and love as Jax…

These two comprise without compromise our Favorite Family of 2015.  Let’s hear it for our youngest boat operator-in-training and longtime beloved crewmember, our Bugs & Jax, Jacqueline & Eva Acton!


Master of Disaster Award

Given to Jimmy Stewart

When he’s not working in the aftermath of a disaster abroad, he magically appears in a river town near you, eager to reunite and plug into the team.  Often, when the MRR crew arrives to set-up our camp, we immediately begin troubleshooting any curve balls the river or town frequently present.  It’s a huge relief when the Master of Disaster shows up early to ready to help make it happen.

This crewmember willingly steps up to the plate and offers to do what needs doing time and time again, from Omaha to St. Charles.  The first time we met him, he grabbed a chop saw and started carving up scrap metal for hauling. In Boonville last year we lost our dispatcher at the last minute and he shrugged, grabbed the clipboard and improvised. And proceeded to rule the ramp for our largest cleanup of the fall (with not enough boats). Although he may not eat any of John Brady’s carefully fried bacon, he has certainly saved our bacon many times.

Well, he can’t be here tonight because he’s working in Indiana.  He’s been there since the beginning of October, and will be there until the end of March.  He says he sure wishes he could make one of these banquets, misses all of you, and to pass along his best wishes. Congrats to Jimmy Stewart, our Master of Disaster.


Most Honorable River Dog

Given to Saffron

Previous winners – Beanie, Sombra & Mr. Foxy

While we miss our old river dogs, Beanie, Alex & Sadie, Sombra, and Mr. Foxy, we have a several new river dogs to celebrate!   This golden girl captured our hearts the minute we met the little fur ball at the Hogan up on the hill in Kansas City.  She’s grown into a mature young lady, has made a great dog to have in camp, and even brings her own camp chair!  Most often than not, she is by her man’s side, and in the boat on each educational river trip, happy to just be there.  She’s smart, she’s sassy, she’s Saffron. 

Please help me congratulate, A Most Honorable River Dog, Saffron.

Super Secret Award Recognition by  John Brady -  to Melanie & Steve

2015 Annual Awards


Floating Classroom Award

Given to Kory Kaufman, MRR Board Member and Rock Bridge High School Teacher

We all know that the future of our world lies in the hands of the next generation. There is no better way to ensure a child cares about the river than to get them out on it, creating lasting educational experiences.  Quality educators are one of the most valuable resources of our society. They are the headwater streams of every watershed, and like those streams, they possess the potential to inspire and produce healthy rivers downstream.  The annual Floating Classroom award goes to the educator who branches out beyond the classroom to help Missouri River Relief get students on the river where they belong!  

Previous year’s recipients were:  John Reid a teacher at Douglass High School Science Teacher, Dave and Fran Stous of Kansas City, Janet Moreland with “Love Your Big Muddy” and  Ms. Tony Jean Dickerson at Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology

In the short time that this year’s recipient has been with Missouri River Relief, he has guided us in furthering our educational efforts as a board member, as chair of the education committee, as a generous donor, and as a volunteer during river programs.

He has provided guidance and support in the revitalization of the education committee, especially when we sometimes jump too far down the rabbit hole. He has carefully contributed to the development of our educational philosophy that serves as a “compass” to keep us on track.  He has assisted in the establishment of three core competencies for students to acquire when engaging with our programs, and has grown our program components with his feedback and expertise from the classroom.  Not only has he contributed to the planning and development side of our education programs, he also was an invaluable asset in the implementation of our “Big River Experience” program, helping us create knowledgeable ecologists, insightful historians and conscientious community members.

I could not do it without this year’s Floating Classroom Award recipient Kory Kaufman, of Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, Missouri.


Troy Gordon Memorial Partner of the Year

Given to Fontenelle Forest & Seth Keith

Partnerships are key to building an organization that reaches & includes a wide variety of individuals, agencies & organizations.  In 2008, we tragically lost a good friend & inspirational partner, Troy Gordon.  Troy epitomized the nature & essence of what it means to give of ones self, include others and inspire action toward the mission & goals of Missouri River Relief; Troy was the ultimate partner.  The annual Troy Gordon Memorial Partner of the Year Award is given to that individual, agency or organization that best represents the spirit of Troy.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Tim Haller (Big Muddy Refuge), MDC Stream Unit, Scott Mansker (Rivermiles), Gloria Attoun-Bauermeister, Patrick Lynn, the MDC Chillicothe Boatdrivers and Joan Read.

In early 2015, I received a phone call from a gentleman by the name of Seth Keith who wanted to collaborate on a river clean-up on his stretch of river just downstream of Omaha.  Well it just so happened that Omaha was on our calendar for the year! 

Soon we were meeting via skype, and collaborating with the staff of Fontenelle Forest on both a river clean-up and education event.  They made it so easy to work together, as they had a number of dedicated staff to help, resources already in place and it helps that they have been working to preserve these woods for the last 100 years!  If you haven’t read the history of Fontenelle Forest, I assure you, it is quite fascinating!

Fontenelle Forest is made up of hardwood deciduous forests, an extensive floodplain jutting out like a peninsula into the Missouri River, loess hills, and marshlands.  We enjoyed getting the history and taking a tour of the place.  We did not enjoy the mosquitos.  But that’s a story for another time.

Anyways, the event went off without a hitch, the clean-up was wildly successful, and we were able to remove a lot of big pieces of debris out of the peninsula that the 2011 floods had swept into this National Natural Landmark. 

Most of all, it was all carried forward by a special guy, who really touched our hearts when we were finally able to meet in person at camp after a long drive.  He was 100% there, on board, with an obvious contagious passion for the natural world.  Please join me in honoring this year’s 2015 Partner of the Year:  Fontenelle Forest & Seth Keith


2015 Sponsor of the Year

Given to Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources, Director Sara Pauley

Missouri River Relief has been blessed by having a large number of dedicated sponsors that not only pay the bills for our clean-up and education operations but also share a passion for our mission and faith that we will spend their dollars wisely.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Missouri Department of Conservation Stream Unit (Missouri Stream Team), Missouri American Water, USFWS Ecological Services, and the Hulston Family Foundation

This year’s Sponsor of the Year is an agency that has been involved with River Relief from the first clean-up in 2001. Many years they could support us with generous funding. But when state coffers dried up, they found creative ways to support the cause - by providing free printing services for River Relief materials and hiring our boats and crews for their “leadership ladder” boat trips on the Missouri River.

In recent years, this agency has stepped up to provide a consistent source of funding to pay for river clean-ups in Missouri. This is crucial when we conduct clean-ups in small river towns where it’s tough to find local funds to pay the costs. Beyond this source of clean-up money, the agency continues to provide free printing of educational materials and pays for educational boat rides for agency officials.

With all the important work they do to protect the environment, to promote public health and to operate outstanding state parks, we are humbled with the generous support they give us. We ask our long-time friend and paddling partner Sara Parker Pauley to accept the “Sponsor of the Year” award on behalf of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 


The Rising Star Award

Given to Gertrude and Aurora Foss, MRR Crewmembers

The long-term survival of Missouri River Relief depends on the continual recruitment of volunteers and crewmembers dedicated to our Mission.  While all ages of volunteers are treasured, outstanding young people are the next generation of River Relief. The annual Rising Star Award is given to youth who have risen and shined as outstanding River Relief crewmembers.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Alex Jansen, Hana & Eli Kellenberger, Campbell Richmond, the Liz Kids, the Dattilo Brothers, the McClain Clan and Jeff Short.

This year’s Rising Stars are just plain sweet.   Quiet, kind of shy, always smiling and eager to help.  They are sure to follow in their dads footsteps… who skipped the “Dive In” award last year and went straight to “One Step Ahead”. 

These girls helped out at the Old Plank Road Clean-up this year joining a cadre of other families, the Confluence Trash Bash, where one could play in the sand and on the beaches of Mosenthein Island forever and never get tired, St. Charles, and they even paddled in Race to the Dome (picking up trash along the way).  These darlings are not afraid to get out there and get some dirt under their fingernails or try something new.  They are well on their way to becoming the Rising Stars of River Relief.  Please help me congratulate the most foss-some of girls, Aurora and Gertrude Foss!


The Dive-in Head First Award

Given to Doris Guillory and Philip Masters, MRR Crewmembers

The key to the success and longevity of any organization is a continuous supply of new, energetic volunteers and crewmembers.  The Annual Dive-in Head First Award is meant to recognize the most outstanding newcomers to the River Relief crew.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Jen Sieradski, Rod Power, Bill Fessler, Mel Haney, The Kellenbergers, Liz Doubet, Alicia Pigg, Josh Pennington, Gale Johnson, Nanci Mon, Tom Smith, Tina Casagrand, Jim Stewart, AJ Feicht & Anniya Priesberger.

It is such a joy to watch newcomers grow as river stewards.  After receiving a powerful bite from that contagious river clean-up bug, the two recipients of this award dove in with such gusto, it made our heads spin.

As if this amazing river lady’s smile & laughter weren’t infectious enough, her energy, warmth, and positivity served as fuel for our clean-up fire.  Lending her help at the Old Plank River Road Clean-up in March was just the beginning.  Her forceful floodgate of volunteering awesomeness and unstoppable go-get-it-ness burst forth, as she joined the crew to help with clean-ups, river races, and fundraisers.  She shared her sunshiny passion & can-do attitude with the crew & everyone she encountered at the many events her presence graced.

River Relief was doubly fortunate this year, due to the contribution of another newcomer whose attitude and determination really stood out as he took on any task he was asked to do and many that he just made into done deals. His readiness to do the best he could at any job, whether he knew what it entailed or not, made him a welcome hand. 

Worth mentioning too, he made himself available at almost every event we held this year.  While he was new to river-related work and to our ways of doing things, he’s a fast learner and a willing worker. Add to that his genuine positive personality and you come up with a real winner.

We appreciate the hard work of these two and can’t wait to go full steam ahead with them in 2016.  Let’s give it up for the co-recipients of the 2015 Dive-In Head First Award, Doris Guillory and Philip Masters.


The One Step Ahead Award

Given to Gale Johnson, MRR Crewmember, Raging Rivers Designs

Few organizations survive without individuals who are persistently watching out for what needs to be done and simply diving in and gittin’ her done.  The annual One Step Ahead Award is given to that individual that has exhibited a go-to-it-ness that exceeds all.  They are recognized for their selfless recognition of what needs to be done and doing it.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Anthony Pettit, Janie Becker, Racin’ Dave, Sarah Pennington, Jodi Pfefferkorn, Craig “Iffy” Holt, Laurie “Ready” Ferretti and Duncan Foss.

After last year’s awards banquet, this little lady was motivated!! ;)  A seasoned crewmember and food angel, she really strives to be on top of things.  When she volunteers her sage wisdom, we listen. When she has dinner planned, we eat!  Oh, do we eat.  When it comes to pulling off a Gala, there is no one we would rather have on the committee.  She has many talents…

Not only does she bring grace and style to the table, she finds a way to physically bring the the river to the table as well!  She’s like a curator of the river’s beauty  and infuses her creativity into everything she is involved in.  She takes her job as an ambassador for the river seriously and has an eye for cultivating our river family. To watch her greet new volunteers into her boat with a huge smile,  inspire them to work hard and also see the deep beauty of the river is to see the full potential power of what we do. Please join us in thanking this model of cheerful go-to-it-ness, Gale Johnson.


The Metamorphosis Award

Given to Tina Casagrand, MRR Crewmember and Founder of New Territory Magazine

Equally important to new blood, the growth and evolution of crewmembers into positions of responsibility is essential to our continued success. The annual Metamorphosis Award recognizes a seasoned crew member who truly grew in their contributions to the organization this year; transforming themselves into positions of more responsibility as a leader, boat driver, staff member, board member or other positions.

Previous Year’s Winners: Scot Heidbrink, Dave Richter, Bill Fessler, Joe & Allison Kellenberger, Racin’ Dave, Daniel “Habibi” Belshe, Patty Farrar & Dave Elsberry and Jen Davis

This talented woman first hopped on a River Relief boat during her college years, on a simple river camping trip that turned into a revelation of river plastic. Since then, we’ve seen her continuously transforming herself, and nearly any project she touches, on the river and in her life. She has helped several like-minded non-profits like ours with her fresh ideas, designs and character. She reveals a story in every photo she takes and crafts her words and graphic creations with a hipness that us old folks can’t touch.

This year she dug deep and cultivated the “Refurbish Our Fleet” Campaign. River Relief was in desperate need to replace our entire aging fleet, all at once. This person offered to help by running MRR’s first ever crowd-sourced funding campaign – as a volunteer. She researched the best online platforms among hundreds, designed everything from cool new graphics to a consistent brand, created an Indiegogo webpage, crafted sponsorship benefits, produced videos and more. It took a lot of work, and the campaign helped MRR raise over $12,000 to help us buy a new passenger van. AND just a couple of weeks ago, we purchased that quality used van from the Ozark Trail Association. It worked!

She is now on her way into New Territories by making her dream of a midwest magazine come to life. Many thanks, and way to go…Tina Casagrand!


The Broken Prop Award

Given to Jennifer Davis, MRR Event Coordinator

Every organization has their follies.  Despite all of our best intentions, the River Gods will play their tricks, and hey, let’s admit it, every once in a while the shit does hit the fan.  And as unfortunate as it may be---someone is usually standing there taking it on the chops.  The Annual Broken Prop Award is given to that River Relief crewmember that has endured the biggest tragedy, the most audacious malady, the most outstanding mishap, or is the brunt of the most cruel accusations and stories of the river cleaning season.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Jeff Barrow, Anthony Pettit (& Scot Heidbrink by default), John Jansen, Anthony Pettit, Jeff Barrow, Tim Nigh, Jeanie Kuntz and Steve Schnarr. 

It was a dark and stormy night.  No, really, it was.  In a riverside park somewhere down below Omaha, the lead contingent of River Relief core volunteers were getting ready for some much needed rest after a long day of preparation for a large education and cleanup event in Fontenelle Forest, south of the city.

Without warning, the desperate call came in. A van with road-weary crewmembers was stranded on the road. What could the cause be? Was it some catastrophic mechanical failure? Perhaps a fatal breakdown, unforeseen and unpreventable despite all proper care and vigilance?  Or.. maybe…a lack of fuel?

Our ace mechanic, Racin’ Dave Stevens questioned the caller.  What are the symptoms?  What have you done to remedy the situation?  Calm down and just listen.  We will come to the rescue.  Indeed, the addition of some fuel and a lucky restart of the diesel motor after running it dry brought the van and its occupants, along with a tired Racin’ Dave into camp in the wee hours. 

Though no lasting effect settled on the equipment, the driver of the van has had to endure near constant good-natured sniping from the rest of the clan.

We hope, as surely she does, that it will end with the presentation of the 2015 Broken Prop Award to her, Ms. Jen Davis.


The Cornerstone Award

Given to Bill Fessler, MRR Board Member, Crewmember, Kansas City Parks Conservation

Every organization has its unsung heroes, people who do the dirty work of making sure the organization is legal, well funded, organized, staffed and steered in a direction that ensures that we are viable and sustainable.  The Annual Cornerstone Award is our organization’s highest honor.  It recognizes a veteran River Relief crew or board member that has dedicated many years of service to the organization’s well being.  Their leadership and commitment to our mission has been essential to our success.

Previous Year’s Winners:  Joe Engeln, John Brady, Jeff Barrow, Dave Richter, Dave Stous, Racin’ Dave, Tim Nigh & Kathy Love

The cornerstone is one of the most important parts of the foundation, the base upon which the entire entity sits. Our Cornerstone Award is rightly reserved for those that have shown by long and faithful service to our mission that they understand what we are about and will do whatever they can to help us meet our goals and enhance our abilities.

This year’s recipient has been with us for many years. He has worked hard at events, become a boat operator and served as a board member. In addition to his own participation, he has inspired people to become involved with River Relief on many levels—from individual workdays and extended campouts to recruiting board members and drafting strategic plans. He has been an excellent networker and nurtured relationships with allied organizations—making connections with Master Naturalists, Greenworks and the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He has donated the use of his private residence as shelter for crew, storage for equipment and parking boats. And he’s renovated and reinvigorated Alligator Cove to make it into a safe port for Missouri River Relief and other river lovers.

Despite being a well-known “fall guy”, his soft-spoken manner can hide the incredible energy and persistence that he brings to any task despite daunting health setbacks. I’m glad to say the “Iron Man” is learning to pace himself in the face of recent health challenges because we need him for the long-term effectiveness of our organization. 

Please help recognize and thank this wonderful friend as River Relief’s 2015 Cornerstone Award recipient, Bill Fessler.

We would be nothing without our homegrown, grassroots crew of volunteers. From motorcycle mechanics and chefs to ecologists and government officials, this growing group of clean-up “addicts” loves to work hard and play hard. What binds them together is a shared love for the Missouri River.

Our crew puts in countless hours each year planning, training and putting on events across five states of the Missouri River.