Youth conservation awards lean heavily on the ability to engage others


Two students took home the first Youth Division Charlie Corbeil Conservation Awards at the fourth annual event April 13 held in the Heritage Isle ballroom adjacent to the Viera Wetlands. The awards are named for a beloved nature expert who volunteered much of his time inspiring the love of nature in others and teaching them to photograph flora and fauna.

Charlie Award youth winner Justin Cole. Photo courtesy of the Cole family.

“We added this division because youth and education are so important to conservation,” said Jill Blue-Gaines, publisher of Viera Voice, which hosts the event in memory of Corbeil. His nature column and photos were reader favorites for years.

Quest Elementary student Justin Cole of Suntree won for the elementary division and homeschooled Brevard Zoo teen volunteer Delaney Farrell of Palm Bay won for the secondary/high school division.

Five adults also won awards that have affectionately come to be known as “The Charlies” in conservation circles: Marine Resources Council founding director Diane Barile; Marine Conservation director of The Nature Conservancy, Anne Birch, who served Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program; lead wildlife biologist Dr. Dave Breinenger of NASA's ecological programs at Kennedy Space Center; St. Sebastian River Preserve park biologist Sammy Lee MdGee; and Florida Today environmental reporter Jim Waymer.

“When our first Youth Division awardee met his idol, world renowned conservationist Jane Goodall, it didn't inspire his mission. It confirmed it, fueled it, deepened it,” said Gaines, who presented Justin's award. He pledged to her that he would start a Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots Club and did so, engaging other students to educate the community on the value of bats, raised money and awareness for the Sumatran Orangutans in Indonesia, their numbers severely threatened due to the palm oil trade, and worked on a number of other projects.

“Justin stood out with the selection committee based on his leadership and the number of community members he has reached with his public awareness campaigns. Growing a love for wildlife into action for wildlife, especially at such a young age, is truly impressive,” Gaines said.

Charlie Award youth winner Delaney Farrell. Photo courtesy of the Farrell family.

Selection committee member Amy Reaume, Conservation Manager at the Brevard Zoo and herself a past Charlie winner, presented Delaney's award.

“No one knows how her obsession with sharks started, but our older Youth Division awardee Delaney has loved them and cared about them since she was 2 years old. At age 13, she got involved in a big way reaching out to others to get them to take action, won her first grant, started her own project called Finformation to educate the public on the value of sharks, will be hosting a booth at the Orlando Science Center on Earth Day, and is organizing the annual Youth Environmental Summit in July.”

Like Justin, Delaney was commended for her ability to engage others as well as her good works.

“Whether you can be a little involved or a lot, there is something everyone can do to help,” Delaney said. “We're all stuck on the one planet together, so we've all got to pull together as one.”

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