John and his dog in downtown Half Moon Bay, CA.[/caption] So what to do next? This was the big question I faced after retiring in June 2010. What new opportunity could I find to do some good for others or the environment, get me outdoors after sitting at a desk for 25 years, and allow me to meet new people? A retiree friend suggested that I take a year to decide, then take another. “Your next adventure will find you, eventually,” she advised. Two years later, in 2012, our state parks had hit a low point. Many were closing in the San Francisco Bay Area due to budget cuts, and I was determined to do something to help. It was then that I discovered California State Parks volunteer program, Park Champions. Attending my first work day at Half Moon Bay State Beach was exhilarating. What better way to check off all of my “next adventure” boxes than doing this! Becoming a Park Champions Core Leader was inevitable.
John explaining the workday project to volunteers at Half Moon Bay State Beach.[/caption] The past five years volunteering at state parks has been a gift. I’ve met so many wonderful people - lots of whom are now great friends! It’s very uplifting to work with passionate volunteers who share a strong desire to help the environment. It counters the cynical narrative promoted today that people care only about themselves. During my Park Champions journey, I’ve encountered several true superheroes! Young volunteer Jay De who couldn’t wait to turn twelve to attend his first event. Incredible long-time volunteers whose passion and friendly banter make newcomers feel welcome. Awesome parents who bring their kids to improve the environment as a family. Intrepid long-distance volunteers who drive over 100 miles each way to help at the beach. And amazing park staff who pass up higher paying jobs to protect and preserve our beautiful state parks. Thank you all - my fellow volunteer Core Leader peeps, park staff and Park Champions volunteers throughout the state - for your dedication and service! This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California that tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Park Champions Appreciation Month! Follow the celebration on social media with the hashtag #ParkChampions and read more blog posts here.