January 21, 2014

"Big Muddy Water"

poem by John Brady 
(you can read other poems by John Brady here)

I am Big Muddy Water
I am the Ice Age’s daughter

I carved this mighty valley from the rock with my blood
I shaped its very nature with my flow and flood
I have, for eons, carried western mountains to the sea
From time before time I caused this Eden to be

No upright creature ever saw me in my youth
My sands long ago buried the primordial tooth
I was revered as sacred by sagacious native bands
Before an axe rang in a single pioneer’s hands

I carried the white explorers west upon my broad back
My course the highway to trace the native track
I fought the pirogues and keelboats that led the immigrant swell
A host of voyageurs I drowned at the cordelle

I stalled and succored expeditions before the settler stream
Forged iron men and women before the age of steam
I contested foot by foot the laying of the rails
To this day, a part of me none does as yet assail

I wear rock and timber armor half the length of my shore
Yet, at my whim, the lot of it would bar my way no more
I am now fettered with belts of concrete, cable and steel
The bridges and wharfs constructed for the common weal

I have borne the barge of commerce and the canoe of exploration
As I guided the settlement of the heartland of your nation
I have and I have always had the time to wait and see
What neglect and works of man will finally make of me

Hear me, O human race, as I my story tell
Your history in our brief meeting bodes neither of us well
I have been as long as rain has wet this circling star
I know, as you may not, what, without me, you are

read as the introduction to the Missouri River Relief "Post Holiday" Crew Awards and Banquet on January 11, 2014.

January 15, 2014

Winter is a time to gather together...

Missouri River Relief "Post-Holiday" Crew Awards and Banquet
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Stoney Creek Inn, Columbia, 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, provide the human infrastructure and staff at clean-ups, cook food, travel all over the watershed and provide the energy and love that keeps it all going. More than your normal non-profit, these folks form a tribe. An always growing, always 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. For many years this has been held in the historic and beautiful Hotel Frederick in Boonville, MO. But last year we outgrew that little spot, so we've expanded to the Stoney Creek Inn in Columbia. 

The evening starts with dinner, then we launch into the awards. The awards start with a massive circle - everyone joins hands and Tim Nigh encourages us to move our energy throughout the crowd. It's a touching way to begin, and brings us all together instantly. Next, John Brady reads one of his poems to get us in the mood. This year he read "Big Muddy River". You can read the poem here.

We have two batches of awards. We start with "Special Recognitions" - special awards we cook up to honor people who have made special contributions throughout the year, or over their time volunteering for River Relief. Next is our annual awards, categories we award every year because they reflect the kind of values that keep us strong. 
Each award is introduced with a description of the award (which is read each year), then a story about the person who is receiving it. We're going to post all of this year's verbiage here. It's a very long list, but sweet and inspiring. 

We'll start with the "Special Recognitions" followed by our Annual Awards. Although the banquet took place in 2014, the awards are for 2013. 

2013 Special Recognitions 


Bill Fessler - The Iron Man Award

Bill Fessler and a less fragile version
of himself. photo by Bernie Arnold
We really missed this guy a lot this year. Yet despite the circumstances he still managed to do a lot to help out Missouri River Relief, and many other conservation causes. Like one of the beautiful marbles he’s known to craft and give away, he just rolls with it.  I’m not sure if he’s got any body parts left that need replacing, but we’re glad that Bill Fessler survived the most non-fatal self-inflicted injuries of the season, and we’re glad to give him the Iron man Award, crafted with love by Racin’ Dave,  John Brady and Gale.
Award - Iron Man sculpture, created with scrap metal reclaimed from the river by Racin' Dave, John Brady and Gale Johnson. 
Bill is our new Board President in 2014


Kathy Love - "The Oracle"

River Relief needs visionaries to make progress and we’ve had a roster of visionaries with lots of ideas to enact—from the Voyage of Recovery to the MegaScout to the Big Muddy Clean Sweep. Like the Oracles of Ancient Times who could predict fateful events, some River Relief visionaries can prophesize the future.  But the true treasures are those who take action to fulfill the vision.

Since the beginning, River Relief has envisioned expanding our River Education Program—but this growth requires more money. Many folks have talked about acquiring money but few have done it. Our Oracle this year made the effort to write grants and letters. She attended meetings and helped guide follow-up efforts that resulted in thousands of dollars in new revenue for the cause.

She didn’t stop there. From her position as chair of the River Relief’s Development Committee, she led the effort to find and hire a fundraising consultant who will raise the money to expand our river education program. We’ve been blessed with the services of the very best candidate, Sarah Martin (please stand up, Sarah and let us welcome you to the river rat tribe).

But our Oracle has not stopped. She has given more than 10 years of service on the board of directors where she has also served as Secretary, and now she is taking the lead with River Relief’s Education Committee to find and hire a new staff member who can focus our efforts to accomplish our educational goals.  

An Oracle is one who speaks prophetically about the future. Our Oracle does more than just talk—she listens, forms a plan and then takes action.  Please join me in acknowledging Kathy Love as River Oracle in 2013!!

Award: Copy of "Oracle of the Turtle" by river poet Bob Dyer, driftwood sculpture designed by Gale Johnson.


Gale Johnson - The Dance Through Darkness Award

Through the years, Missouri River Relief has become more to its crew members than just a good group of good people united in a good cause. It has become a tribe. A tribe hurts when any member of it hurts and this year we have watched with great concern while one of our dearest crew members faced a terrific personal battle.
In this very long year, this previous cancer survivor has shown us all what it is to fight a hideous enemy with courage, humor and grace. Even when her illness sidelined her from every activity other than fighting for her life, she showed an inner strength and spirit that has humbled all who witnessed it. Despite long sessions of chemotherapy and the physical toll it took, she rarely let show any loss of hospitality, charm and friendship. 
She has freely shared her experience and her feelings with all interested and from this we have learned not only a lot about her but about the terrifying disease she fights. Her example of courage, humor and stoicism in the face of it all is truly a lesson in the strength of spirit for all of us. Though many times the way ahead was dark, she faced it dancing as fast as she could.  Now that her illness is in remission, join me now in saying “job well done, lady” to the 2013 Dance Through Darkness Special Award honoree, Gale Johnson. 
Award: Gift certificates for massage, healthy food from Main Squeeze

Gale welcomes another crew of volunteers to the river.
photo by Francis Baum.


Hannah, Robert, Melinda and Dan Hemmelgarn - Favorite Family

The Favorite Family Award this year primarily reflects the efforts of two siblings—although the whole family is involved with the cause of clean rivers. This sister and brother duo ended the year of 2012 with a double-shot bang at the Big Muddy Speaker Series, each presenting on a completely different topic related to the Missouri River - one on the Katy Trail and the other screening a film on our favorite river town, Lupus.

As the year progressed, River Relief began to fall behind more and more with add-ons to an already ambitious schedule. That’s when the Favorite Family stepped up to fill gaps when we needed them the most.

First, we’ve been blessed by Roger and Barb Giles to use their Sternwheeler for “Friendraiser” trips. These boat rides have been great for developing relationships and raising money but they also can be time-consuming with guest invitations and numerous logistical details. Robert Hemmelgarn shone like a star planning, conducting and, most important, following up with two very successful Sternwheeler trips, relieving our overworked staff and adding his own special touch. The results more than doubled our support from the Department of Natural Resources and made important connections with the Columbia Public Schools.

Our trip upriver to Omaha presented a big challenge when we could muster only a bare-bones crew. Hannah Hemmelgarn stepped in to help us from the very beginning to the absolute end of this week in Nebraska and Iowa. In particular, Hannah made a strong impression as she drove a boat for the first time with excellent handling skills. She stayed to the bitter end when the trash barge was off-loaded at the Army Corps of Engineers facility a nearly a week later.

These two siblings also  have a couple stellar parents that care about clean water, the environment and good food.  Melinda and Dan Hemmelgarn helped us screen countless films for the 2013 Wild & Scenic Film Festival and donated beautiful cards to the silent auction. Plus they joined us in kayaks to greet Janet Moreland as she paddled through the Manitou Bluffs.
Please let’s praise and thank our Favorite Family of 2013—the Hemmelgarn clan.
Award: gift certificate to Broadway Brewery


Mike Smith - The Lorax

Mike Smith hard at work, as always.
This next award recipient is one of our downstream treasures. We don’t know if most folks in his hometown understand just how lucky they are to have this man looking out for the river, but we really wanted to highlight some of the invisible things he’s been doing for the riverside forest.

This man has adopted the floodplain forest along the Riverfront Trail in Washington, where he takes his daily walks. He’s fought removal of trees by people living on the bluffs above who want a better view of the river. He’s removed invasive vines, honeysuckle and Japanese hops. He’s replanted riparian hardwoods and native fruiting and flowering shrubs.

He’s worked with the Parks Dept. to develop a plan for the forest looking into the future. And this spring he led a group of locals cleaning up piles of trash deposited by the 1993 flood during our Washington River Clean-up and River Festival. We think Mike Smith is underappreciated for his passion and hard work, and that’s why we wanted to honor him with the Lorax Award. Keep speaking for the trees Mike!
Award: Gift Certificate to Missouri Wildflower Nursery


Emily Pherigo - A True Blue Tributary

There are more than a few words to describe this charismatic lady:  Rock solid, dependable, sweet, amiable, dynamic, productive, charming, confident and smart.  Always cheerful. 

This person has been the calm before and during the storm – she’s a real go-getter, full of ideas, formulates a plan, and then takes action.  While we don’t often see her as crew at clean-ups, meetings or in camp, she is often in the mix as an educational presenter with live fish, shrimp and even plankton, engaging kids in her science.  Even better, she is a fantastic boat driver, and often takes the time to talk to the clean-up volunteers about the river and take them for a spin to catch a flying carp, even if their site is only a ¼ mile away.  She is a great role model at these events. 

For the last several years, this dedicated and charming lady has helped us with outreach and donations for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, confidently and systematically hitting a number of downtown businesses, and coming up with new ideas for more experiential auction items like last year’s “fish biologist for a day” in which she was able to share her work fishing on the tributaries to the Missouri River.  She’s well-grounded and hard-working.  A Shining Star, she has readily agreed to serve on our board of directors, and we’re hoping to bring her in to the main stem of the organization.  Please help us recognize tonight, this dynamic damsel, a true-blue tributary, Emily Pherigo.Award: Driftwood sculpture by Gale Johnson

University of Missouri graduate student Emily Pherigo shows
soft-shelled turtles to students in Washington, MO during the
"Day on the River" education event. photo by Melanie Cheney


Sombra – Most Honorable River Dog

We are a diverse group with many entities contributing to the beautiful whole. We have a long history and beings will come and go. We love, appreciate and welcome the next generation.

One special being has left us in the flesh but not in our hearts. She was a constant in our midst, ever present, but never in the way. Always wagging slowly forward, eyes happy, accepting an inviting hand, bully rub or treat! Digging and circling until the spot was perfect for a relaxing nap.

The perfect hood ornament to our boats, our greeter at cleanups, and a welcome comfort. 

Sombrita was our favorite river dog. The shadow of a lovely man. She was always going with the flow; comfortable with people and her surroundings. She was easily left behind at times but never forgotten. 

Steve would you please accept this award for Sombra as our “most honorable river dog”?


Sponsor of the Year - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ecological Services Field Office in Columbia.

Missouri River Relief has been blessed by having a large number of dedicated sponsors that not only pay the bills for this river clean-up operation, but share a passion for our mission and a trust that we will spend their dollars wisely.
Previous winner: Missouri American Water (2012)

This Year’s Sponsor of the Year is an agency that found a creative way to support the many things we do that have been difficult to fund in traditional ways. By setting up a Cooperative Agreement with River Relief, they gave us the flexibility to pursue the kinds of innovative education projects that allow us to reach more diverse audiences within our erratic and river-dependent schedule. This support allowed us to create a Big Muddy Speaker Series website, design and print outdoor educational displays, fund impromptu river education events throughout the river valley and support river clean-ups in small towns where funding can be tough to find.

With all the important work they already do to study and save the ecological web that sustains us all, we are humbled with the generous and trusting support they have given to us. We ask long-time friend Amy Salveter to accept the “Sponsor of the Year” award on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ecological Services Field Office in Columbia. Award: framed photo of Missouri River in Kansas City


Jeff Barrow - Unsung Hero

One of the rules of our Crew Awards is that staff are not eligible. Every once in a while, we break that rule. This is one of those times. It’s been since 2009 since we’ve recognized this key player, a recognized Cornerstone of our organization. 

Much of the work this man does is totally behind-the-scenes and invisible to most of us, but without it, this organization would sputter and collapse. When the rubber meets the road, he is the one that picks up the slack left by others.  He will run day and night for weeks on end, traveling hundreds of miles to back-to-back events, and appears to enjoy it. 

He writes the checks and makes sure we’ve got the funds to back them up. He always has a kind word to say, not shy of giving many thanks & praises or kisses to both cheeks.  He always replies with an “MRAU” (Message Received and Understood).  And is not afraid to let his hair down and dance like an “air man” around the camp fire until the last piece of firewood is burnt.  He networks with the best of ‘em, and always seems to have the right thing to say. We rely on him to be our fall-back guy…  he is our unsung hero. 

Please help us with many thanks and praises for our fearless leader, Jeff aka “Boot” Barrow for the 2013 Unsung Hero Award.
Award - Embroidered fleece jacket and framed photo

Jeff "Boot" Barrow in action at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area.
He seems to thrive in awful weather. photo by Melanie Cheney


MRR Annual Awards 

These awards are given every year and represent core values that sustain Missouri River Relief. 


Janet Moreland - The Floating Classroom Award

We all know that the future of our world lies in the hands of the next generation and that there’s no better way to ensure a child cares about, or is even aware of the river, than to get them out on it. 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 Award winners – Dave and Fran Stous (2012) – John Reid (2011)

The river itself is a classroom. Everyday for over seven months this amazing woman shared her experience floating down the nation’s longest river with the world. In the meantime, she created a catalogue of all the amazing places, views, natural phenomena and intriguing people that swirl around our river. She drew people from around the country together into a new community that celebrated the Missouri River and her amazing journey. She didn’t conquer the river…she embraced it and shared it with all of us. And she wore her Missouri River Relief hat everyday!

We hope that in the future we can work with Janet Moreland to bring students and adults alike onto the Missouri River, the best teacher we have. And to bring the river into classrooms all throughout our river valley.

Thanks for everything you’ve shown us Janet. "The journey is not over until the mission bears fruit."
Award - Framed Photo, Shirt embroidered with Love Your Big Muddy logo. 

Janet Moreland on the Jefferson River. Photo by Norm Miller.


The MDC Chillicothe Crew - The Annual Troy Gordon Memorial Partner of the Year Award

 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.
Past receipients – Patrick Lynn (2012), Gloria Bauermeister (2011), Scott Mansker & the Rivermiles Crew (2010), MDC Streams Unit (2009), Tim Haller (Big Muddy Refuge) (2008)

The very first Missouri River Relief clean-up in 2001 depended on a lot of help from a lot of boat drivers. Even though we’ve been building our fleet ever since, it is just as much true today. There’s no way we can get hundreds of people out on the river in less than an hour without a stable of agency boat drivers giving up their Saturday morning and driving to whatever remote boat ramp we ask them to. This group of partners has taken that mandate to a new level of dedication. From St. Joseph down to Jefferson City, we can count on the help of both the Fisheries and Missouri River Units from Chillicothe to make the drive and safely haul huge numbers of volunteers onto the river in their massive research boats.

They’ve caught live fish to display to children at our events. And one of them has recruited his family to participate in countless clean-ups, becoming super clean-up pros themselves.

We just want to pass along our deepest thanks to the MDC Chillicothe Crew for your years of dedication to our project cleaning up your office. Special thanks to Jason Datillo, Thomas Huffman, Darby Niswonger and Greg Pitchford.
Award - Framed photo

Jason Datillo, fisheries biologist with Mo. Dept. of Conservation,
readies a crew of volunteers to cleanup the river
at La Benite Park, Sugar Creek, MO


Kim, Eban, Indica and Zayden McClain
- The Rising Star Award

The long term survival of Missouri River Relief depends on the continual recruitment of volunteers and crew members 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 crew members.
Previous recipients: Datillo Brothers (2012), Liz Kids (2011), Campbell Richmond (2010), Hana & Eli Kellenberger (2009) & Alex Janson (2008).

2013 was blessed with a flood of young people in camp this year.  Kids were running amok, getting boat rides, helping in orientation and safety, staying up late, hogging the camp fire, and helping keep the crew a little more, well…. kid-friendly. 

This year’s Rising Stars are well on their way to becoming outstanding river rats in large part thanks to their mom. Without this single, enthusiastic and caring woman, the McClain Clan would cease to fill the river rat crowd with their rambunctious energy and youthful help.  From rocking the registration booth to helping work the life jacket scene, digging in deep for that plastic bottle, and hopping on boats numerous times, in extreme cold or hot weather, be it rain or shine, the entire family loaded up the van and participated in more than 4 clean-ups this year! 

Please join me in praising Eban, Indica, Zayden and their Mom Kim McClain as our newest Rising Stars. 
Award - photo album, embroidered sweatshirts


Tina Casagrand & Jim Stewart
- The Dive-in Head First Award

The key to the success and longevity of any organization is a continuous supply of new, energetic volunteers and crew members.  The Annual Dive-in Head First Award is meant to recognize the most outstanding newcomers to the River Relief crew.
Previous winners – Tom Smith (2012), Gale Johnson & Nanci Mon (2011), Alicia Pigg and Josh Pennington (2010), Liz Doubet & the Kellenbergers (2009), Bill Fessler & Mel Haney (2008), Jen Courtney and Rod Powers (2007)

Despite our diligent planning, at several events this year, there was barely enough crew available to get the job done. It seems we always find a way to make things work when that happens. The task was made much easier several times this year by the attitude and abilities of two new crew members who share the 2013 Dive-In Head First Award. This man and woman quickly shed any “newbie” status by volunteering to take on any task presented to them, including some they had no idea of.

That status disappeared when they paid attention to instruction, added their own flair and experience to the mix and wound up performing every task they were volunteered for with care, aplomb and ability. These two people enriched the entire crew with their amiable and eager attitudes and willingness to learn on-the-fly.

After a single event, it seemed that they had somehow become seasoned crew and we learned to trust them with a lot of responsibility. They shouldered it well and it was a pleasure to watch them work. From chicken chopping to trash talking, these two were on it like a big dog. Please give it up for the co-recipients of the 2013 Dive-In Head First Award, Tina Casagrand and Jim (I know, right?) Stewart.Award - Embroidered fleece

Jimmy Stewart triumphs with Hannah, Steve and Jeff after dismantling
a renegade raft that had been floating down the Missouri River below Omaha.
photo by Melanie Cheney. 
Tina Casagrand leads the Trash Contest in Omaha. photo by Melanie Cheney

David Elsberry and Patty Farrar
- The Metamorphosis Award

Equally important to new blood, the growth and evolution of crew members 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 winners – Daniel Belshe (2012), Racin Dave (2011), Allison & Joe Kellenberger (2010), Bill Fessler (2009), Dave Richter (2008), Scot Heidbrink (2007)

River Relief requires a constant upwelling of good-hearted, hard-working people to function because of our full schedule and the continual turnover of volunteer crew. This is especially true when we take the river cleanup show on-the-road and out-of-state.

The long-term change exemplified in this year’s Metamorphosis Award started last year in Omaha where it takes 5 hours to convoy, and River Relief sets up camp for a week to maximize activities there. It can be difficult to find enough crew members to make the trip at all much less the additional time for weekday events. We were blessed in 2012 to find a couple of stalwart workers and outdoors enthusiasts to join us during the week. But then they got distracted by getting married and building their love-nest in the woods of Boone County.

Once those tasks were completed, these two really stepped back up and joined River Relief on almost every project and task in 2013—From the Alternative Spring Break in Memphis, to the talent show stage at River Rally, and the MR340 race. Between the two of them, they attended almost every clean-up, crew meeting, work party and celebration. We look forward to their continued good work as they take leadership roles at events and gain skills as boat operators. Please join me in congratulating the Dynamic of Duo’s, Patty “Dobro” Farrar and Dave “Too Tall” Elsberry.Award - Framed photo and embroidered windbreakers


Laurie "Ready" Ferretti - The One Step Ahead Award

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 recipients: Craig Holt (2012), Jodi Pfefferkorn (2011), Sarah Pennington (2010), Racin’ Dave Stevens (2009), Jayni Becker (2008) and Anthony Pettit (2007)

In just a few years working with our crew, this person has gained a reputation for being well prepared for just about anything encountered. At every event, she arrived well equipped with at least one of each item that might be required plus enough extra bug spray, headlamps, towels, candy and other assorted items to comfort those who travelled too light. Though not new to our events, this year she pitched in to the work with a determination and pragmatism that truly made her stand out amongst our dedicated crew.

Given a task for the first time, she demonstrated an uncanny ability to smoke out what was required to do a good job and then just do it. As an example, asked to share the volunteer dispatch, one of the most complicated cleanup jobs, for the first time, she shrugged her shoulders and said “OK”. Then she did a great job, following it up with cleaning up trash with the volunteers and then crewing on the trash haul.

Always showing an upbeat attitude, she was ever ready; ready to plan, ready to work and ready to rock and roll. She always seems to be fueled with hi-test, is a great pleasure to be around and a good hand to have on deck. Soft-spoken and shy in spite of her repartee, she richly deserves our heartfelt appreciation. Please join me in congratulating the 2013 One Step Ahead Award honoree, Miss Laurie “Ready” Ferretti.  
Award - Embroidered Fleece


Jeanie Kuntz - The Broken Prop Award

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 crew member 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 recipients: Tim Nigh, Jeff Barrow (twice) Anthony Pettit (twice) and John Jansen

I am reluctant to announce this award because there can be teasing and ridicule with it. But there is no criticism or shame associated with this year’s award recipient. Our schedule has become grueling, almost reaching the breaking point at times, and our crew’s backup “bench” can be minimal. In these trying times, River Relief needs people to be brave and willing to try new tasks, sometimes difficult or risky.

At the MR340 race, we provide safety boats and crews in a magnificent fleet from KC to St. Charles. This also requires vehicles to perform a complex matrix of shuttle drives. This year, we lacked experienced drivers but the River Gods blessed us with a stalwart crew member who volunteered to haul a boat trailer to the finish line—despite some self-doubt and misgivings on her part. She had plenty of experience in the MRR camp kitchen but less behind the wheel. No worries, Steve Schnarr gave her a training session with some practice maneuvers dragging a plate boat (stressing the necessity of making “WIDE TURNS”). She then drove the GMC pick-up truck with a small-boat trailer from Columbia to St. Charles 340 finish line, flawlessly through the I-70 traffic and across the narrow streets of the city where she reached the safety of the parking lot at the Lewis & Clark boat house. WHEW!

Once there, she was directed by Fleet Manager John Brady to drive to an empty area of the bustling parking lot filled with racers and ground crews alike. As she rounded the parking lot, she saw Brady waving to her and she made a bee-line toward him, apparently forgetting the lesson about WIDE TURNS.  As she made her final approach, a small bolt on the boat trailer scraped across the quarter-panel of a shiny truck. This happened unbeknownst to both her and Brady. Apparently neither of them heard the collision. After the police caught up with the director of River Relief, we filed a police report and an insurance claim, and everything worked out fine. So with the motto “all’s well that ends well” let’s give it up for this year’s recipient of the Broken Prop Award, Jeanie Kuntz. Award - embroidered "Gilligan Hat" and the illustrious Broken Prop plaque.


Tim Nigh - The Cornerstone Award

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 recipients – Racin’ Dave, Dave Stous, Dave Richter, Jeff Barrow, John Brady, Joe Engeln and Jim Karpowicz (who was awarded a case of “Founder’s Syndrome”, otherwise known as Pinot Grigio)

This person has long been on the “short list” for Cornerstone recipients.  He’s been a guide, a networker, an idea guy, a boat operator, a cartographer, a chef, a drummer and more often than not, the last guy awake around the fire.  Many late nights have been spent on this guy’s back porch, brainstorming ideas for the growth of River Relief and figuring out the best path forward.  Despite his tendency to cancel meetings at the last minute and triple book himself into oblivion, this year he has stepped up in an impressive, dedicated and much needed way.

From our frigid campout on Pelican Island in March to our final clean-up with Sustain Mizzou, he has been behind the scenes, in the kitchen and in front of the cameras at nearly every event we’ve put on this year. Where our staff can be stressed out and overly serious, he injects light-hearted fun into every event, helping us realize that our time together and our moments on the river are the real embers that keep this fire burning.

In just one year you’ve gone from the Broken Prop Award to the Cornerstone. We would not be where we are without you. Please join us with powerful praise and a hearty thank-you for Tim “Tumbleweed” Nigh for a “job-well-done.”
Award - Embroidered fleece jacket, beautiful driftwood piece prepared by Gale Johnson with stone plaque painted by Ruthie Moccia.