Paddling event raises funds, spirits
Three-year-old Kindred Worrell, the youngest participant in the 19th Annual Varina Lions Canoe-a-thon, didn't have much choice when it came to attending. But she enjoyed the 10-mile cruise, looking at kayaks and fishing a feather out of the James, just the same.
Her father, Sgt. Timothy Worrell of the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, visited Kindred frequently along the way as he escorted several dozen canoes and kayaks from Rocketts Landing to Osborne Landing.
And Kindred's mother, Jennifer, pronounced the journey a relaxing and much-needed episode of "tornado therapy" for herself and fellow teacher Angela Paust.
Paust teaches sixth grade at Page Middle School in Gloucester County and Jennifer Worrell is a reading specialist. On April 16, a tornado destroyed roughly half the school building, and Page teachers and students had to transfer to another county middle school. To accommodate the double load, home students and faculty now attend a morning shift, and the contingent from Page attends from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
In addition to the stress of being uprooted and adapting to the new schedule, Page faculty are also coping with reams of lost and destroyed records.
"My dad found a GED test in his yard," said Worrell, "four miles away [from the school]. And letters to the chorus teacher were found two counties over in Deltaville."
All of which made a leisurely paddle down the James sound pretty appealing to Worrell and Paust when they learned of the canoe-a-thon through Worrell's husband.
Pick your pace
Unlike the two teachers, Will Harlan has been coming to the canoe-a-thon for years. His neighbor, Buz Snyder, is the event's founder and a long-time activist in the sponsoring organization, the Varina Lions Club.
Asked to name his most memorable canoe-a-thon, Harlan said it would have to be his first, when he was still a new member of the Lions Club.
Assured by Snyder that the event was not a race, Harlan took his two young sons, whose ages he estimated at seven and ten.
"I had never paddled flat water before," Harlan recalled, anticipating a relaxing cruise with his boys. "We brought coolers, fishing rods, radios, and lots of food.
But from the moment Snyder and his son hit the water, said Harlan, they never stopped paddling.
"What do you mean, 'It's not a race?' he asked Snyder after his loaded-down boat finally arrived at the take-out and picnic.
The following year, said Harlan, he and his sons arrived in a stripped-down boat. "And we started getting competitive!"
That's the beauty of the canoe-a-thon, say its fans.
Paddlers can challenge themselves to try and beat their time from earlier years, challenge family members or buddies in a friendly wager, or even vie to be the first canoeist or kayaker to finish.
Or they can sit back and enjoy nature, the river, wildlife, and all the history floating by.
"Views from the river have not changed that much in over 400 years," pointed out Stephen Winks, the canoe-a-thon sponsorship chairman.
Noting that the 17th century Wilton Farm in Varina was called “World's End,” because there was no known European habitation beyond that point, he added, "You can not only see the unchanged views . . . but imagine the history of native Americans, and at Wilton, with it literally being the end of the world as we knew it."
Both the put-in and take-out sites are historic spots, said Winks. Rocketts Landing was the largest seaport in the country prior to the advent of railroads, and Thomas Jefferson's grandfather and namesake lived at the town of Osborne, across from Osborne Landing, where he operated a ferry.
Just half a mile from Osborne Landing also lies Snyder's residence of Aarrahahatteck.
"It is the only named spot on Captain John Smith's 1610 map of Virginia," said Winks, "other than James Towne."
Although the canoe-a-thon may have originally been organized as a fun club activity and fundraiser -- proceeds contribute to community scholarships, middle school reading programs, after-school YMCA programs, and assistance for the sight and hearing impaired -- Winks views it also as a means of raising awareness about Varina.
Most people think of Varina as nothing more than a sleepy rural suburb of Richmond, said Winks. The canoe-a-thon gives organizers a chance to promote the community's beauty, as well as its "extraordinary history [as the] second oldest spot in North America, in the most historic city in North America: Richmond, Va."
In addition to the opportunity to get close to nature and history, the canoe-a-thon also provides what Harlan calls a "family reunion" atmosphere. Snyder returns with sons and grandchildren every year, and Harlan's two boys -- now in their twenties -- come back to town annually for the event.
For Dave Whyte, who paddled with Snyder because his usual partner couldn't make it, the event was a chance to spend a few hours with a role model and good friend.
"I keep coming back every year because Buz is like a father to me," said Whyte.
Whyte met Snyder in 1994 through his friend Billy Waldecker, who is a great nephew of Snyder's wife, Nelda. "Billy and I were big bass fishing nuts," said Whyte, "so naturally Buz’s pond was a great place to visit."
In return for the chance to fish at Arrahatteck, Whyte would help out with tasks such as clearing brush or repairing the dock. Eventually, Whyte began attending the Waldecker family reunion each July -- a tradition he has continued since he married and had children.
"Over the years, Buz and Nelda fell in love with my family and vice versa, and we feel like part of their extended family," he said. "Arrahatteck is a place that my kids have grown up with and our memories there are very fond."
Since his own father's death in 2007, Whyte said Snyder's role in his life has taken on an even more special significance.
"I have great respect and admiration for Buz," he said. "[He is] someone I can model myself after in terms of attitude and integrity.
"It was an honor to paddle with him for the first time this year."
No tornadoes needed
As canoe-a-thon participants reached the take-out location at Osborne Landing and gathered for the barbecue lunch, it was clear that even the prospect of a few sore muscles would not deter anyone from returning the following year.
One woman, climbing stiffly from her canoe, managed a smile as she groaned, "I don't think I'll do this tomorrow, though."
Another woman, who seemed to take perverse pride in finishing last -- even with a helpful tow from the "sag wagon" boat -- showed off several treasures she had found along the journey.
"Look at this burly piece of driftwood!" she exclaimed, adding, "There were too many interesting things to see [to paddle fast]."
On the bus ride back to Rocketts Landing to pick up cars, Angela Paust was already nostalgic as she reminisced, "It was so nice to be out there on the river."
Her fellow teacher, Worrell, confirmed that it won't take a tornado to get them to another canoe-a-thon.
"We'll be back next year," said Worrell. "It was awesome."
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) will host a candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the University of Richmond, outside the Cannon Chapel. The public is invited to attend and join MADD to honor victims of impaired driving crashes, while helping to remind the community to be safe during the holidays. > Read more.
Among participants at the Seventh Annual Coordinators2Inc Golf Tournament and awards luncheon Oct. 3 were (from left) Rebecca Ricardo, C2 Inc executive director; Kevin Derr, member of the winning foursome; Sharon Richardson, C2 Inc founder; and Frank Ridgway and Jon King, members of the winning foursome.
Held at The Crossings Golf Club, the tournament will benefit placement of children from Virginia's foster care system into permanent families through Coordinators2. > Read more.
Event will help kick of Marine Corps' 'Toys for Tots' campaign
All 140 A.C. Moore locations will serve as drop-off centers this year for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and all toys collected will stay in the local communities served by the stores in which they are donated.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, the Willow Lawn location will kick off the month-long program by hosting a "Make & Take" craft event for kids. Children ages six and older will be able to make a craft and take it home with them. Representatives from the Marines will be in-store to teach customers about the Toys for Tots program. A.C. Moore team members will be on site to help with the crafts. > Read more.
The Dominion GardenFest of Lights Grand Illumination takes place tonight at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden! This year’s theme is “A Legacy in Lights: 120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden,” which celebrates the Garden’s history. You can also celebrate Thanksgiving again – tomorrow at Henricus Historical Park. More great events – Lavender Fields Herb Farm and Wilton House Museum will both host their holiday open house events this weekend. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6,’ lovable robot Baymax delight
It may be time for Olaf to step down as our nation’s reigning cartoon character. Big Hero 6, the latest animated feature from Disney, contains a challenger to the throne: Baymax (Scott Adsit), another lovably chubby white wonder, who will bring joy to children’s hearts and invade every home in America inside a six-foot pile of Disney merchandise.
Big Hero 6 (based ever so slightly on a Marvel comic of the same name) is the story of Baymax – and also his closest companion Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter). And then also their four friends, all of whom join together to form the titular superhero team.
At first, though, it’s only Hiro, a young boy and an engineering prodigy, who’d rather spend his time in underground robot fight clubs than do something productive with his gifts. > Read more.
Bella’s feels – and tastes – like Italy should
Short Pump is known for its share of chain restaurants and strip malls, but diners looking for something more distinct can certainly find it without heading downtown or to nearby Charlottesville.
In fact, local husband-and-wife restaurateurs Valeria Bisenti and Doug Muir brought a taste of Charlottesville (and Italy) to Short Pump when they took a chance and opened Bella’s second location in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart and Peter Chang China Cafe. (Bella’s original location is on Main Street in downtown Charlottesville.)
For a local Italian restaurant, Bella’s is as “Mom and Pop” as its gets. Valeria is Mom, and Doug is Pop. Since its opening about six months ago, diners have been eating rich comfort foods and drinking Italian wines. > Read more.
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