A small but enthusiastic group of volunteers joined a famous bear and well-known owl to support an international competition attended by more than 100,000 people from all over the world. The U.S. Forest Service was a proud partner of the 2015 World Special Olympics in Los Angeles recently.
Employees of the Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountains National Monument were joined by employees and volunteers from national forests all over California to staff an informational booth on the University of Southern California campus, July 23 – Aug. 2. The booth helped inform athletes and spectators about the accessibility of national forests and monuments, while helping spread the message of wildfire prevention.
Visitors to the booth received brochures, booklets and coloring books on topics ranging from environmental conservation to Smokey Bear’s principles. But the most popular item at the booth was the prize wheel, available for anyone to take a turn. Every spin earned a fun, educational prize from the table, which included: pins, Frisbees, bracelets and more. The fun, interactive activity helped to bridge the language barrier for many of the international participants.
“The fan favorite was definitely the (prize) wheel, which was a great way to interact with those who didn’t speak English or Spanish,” said Joanna Huckabee, an archeologist for the Angeles National Forest.
Tens of thousands of athletes, families and other spectators made their way through the Forest Service booth. The booth remained busy throughout the 10-day event, but saw its highest activity during special appearances by furry and feathered friends of the forest. Frequent visits by Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and K-9’s from USFS Law Enforcement drew large crowds.
“Whenever Smokey, Woodsy, or (the K-9’s) were present, people were lining up to have their pictures taken,” said Martin Dumpis, the regional forester’s representative for ecological restoration in Southern California. “There never was a dull moment at the booth.”
Being a part of the largest event in the city of Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics was an honor for Forest Service employees and volunteers alike. Everyone involved was proud to know they had made a positive impact on so many people from so many places.
“All across the world, athletes and their coaches will remember where they got the Smokey Bear pin, Frisbee, or bracelet,” said Dumpis. “More importantly, they will remember who gave it to them.”