Elachee's Youngest Students Lead the Way

Elachee Nature Academy Preschool and K-1 students guided Blind Endeavors Foundation Founder Steve Baskis on a hike in Chicopee Woods to share with him why this 'big playground' is their special place.


February 28, 2017 (Gainesville, GA) – Elachee Nature Science Center and its affiliated school, Elachee Nature Academy, were pleased to be a stop on the U.S. tour of the Blind Endeavors Foundation. Founder Steve Baskis spent February 23rd at Elachee sharing his personal story of triumph and inspiration with both the Nature Center’s youngest students and its most loyal life-long learners. Elachee Nature Academy students Aubrey Moore and Earl Adamson delight Blind Endeavors Foundation founder Steve Baskis with nature treasures found during a guided hike in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.

Baskis, a U.S. Veteran who was blinded in 2008 while serving in Iraq, has now devoted his life’s work to demonstrating through adaptive technologies and determination that the visually impaired community and others can flourish in whatever capacity they choose. Baskis himself has embarked on a life of adventure and exploration, made possible through adaptive sports. His message of “Moving is Living,” shines through his actions. Blind Endeavors (blindendeavors.org), through Baskis, seeks to reach students at every level in all 50 states.

Introduced to the Gainesville community and Elachee by fellow veteran and retired Gainesville City Police detective Joe Amerling, Baskis had a chance to meet one-on-one with Elachee Nature Academy Preschool and K-1 students. He shared his experiences and had show 'n tell time with some of the adaptive sporting equipment he uses.

Elachee Nature Academy preschool student Valentina Gurubatham reading a Braille interpretive sign with Blind Endeavors founder Steve Baskis during a hike in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.Then together these young adventurers led him on a guided hike in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. During their turn to share, students helped Baskis experience the natural wonders found along the Geiger Trail, Elachee’s half-mile handicap accessible trail.

“The kids were amazing,” Baskis confided. “They walked me down the path and showed me many things about their favorite places to hike and play. I’m extremely astonished and surprised at how much the kids understood about the nearby plants and trees.”

Baskis made a lasting impression with the students, as evidenced by this sampling of comments: “Mr. Steve is really awesome because he can read Braille.” “He is blind, but it doesn’t stop him from doing what he wants to do.” “Even though Mr. Steve got hurt, he never gave up.” “I like that he still does the things he loves even though he is blind.”

Baskis was also the guest speaker at Elachee’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet that afternoon, where he impressed the more than 60 attendees who themselves are no strangers to extreme sports and outdoor adventures. Gasps of admiration, raised eyebrows and nods acknowledging his accomplishments brought to light the fact that he has done many things sighted individuals will never attempt. Elachee Nature Academy students Jaxon Ramierz and J.R. Walker exploring foliage with Blind Endeavors founder Steve Baskis during a hike in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.

Elachee President and CEO Andrea Timpone commented, “Elachee and Blind Endeavors have a common goal to make it possible for children and adults to overcome 'nature deficit disorder' by getting outside.”

Baskis’ actions have become a symbol lighting the way for others. Just as he approaches each new adventure assisted by a sighted guide and adaptive equipment, Baskis encouraged Elachee’s volunteer corps to help spread the word that a lack of time spent outdoors is everyone’s challenge. In particular, for persons in training to develop the adaptive sport technologies or learning therapeutic skills, his challenge was to get outside with a physically-challenged friend to better understand how to make things better for these individuals.

“I can't wait to return someday to Elachee so I can learn more from the little ones,” Baskis said, along with a special thanks to “all the volunteers who make the place what it is.”

Elachee’s 12-mile trail system throughout the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, including the paved and handicap accessible Geiger Trail, is open to public daily free of charge from 7 a.m. to sunset. Hikers may access trails from Elachee’s Visitor Center and the Elachee Aquatic Studies Center at Chicopee Lake. Elachee’s Visitor Center, live animal and museum exhibits are open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 per adult and $3 per child (ages 2-12 years). Elachee Members are admitted for free. Visit elachee.org/plan-your-visit to learn more.

About Elachee Nature Academy

Elachee Nature Academy is a fully-accredited and licensed school offering Preschool and Kindergarten-1st Grade programs, managed and operated by Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville, Ga. Elachee Nature Academy uses a child-directed, discovery-based curriculum to instruct young students in developmentally appropriate ways, helping children thrive in a framework that fosters their natural curiosity about the world around them. Learn more at elacheenatureacademy.org.

About Elachee Nature Science Center

Elachee Nature Science Center, in north Georgia’s 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, is a private, independently operated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. For more than 38 years, this premier SACS/AdvancEd-accredited nature center has been instrumental in building environmental literacy for Georgians. Elachee engages tens of thousands of visitors annually with quality nature programming through K-12 school field trips and outreachspecial events and unique environmental education experiences for children, families and nature lovers. Named the 2017 Best of Hall Summer Camp, Camp Elachee has a rich history of getting children outdoors during school breaks. The Elachee campus is also home to 12 miles of pristine hiking trails and Elachee Nature Academy, the first SACS-accredited Nature Preschool and Nature Kindergarten-1st Grade programs in the Southeast. Elachee relies on earned income and tax-deductible donationscorporate sponsorshipsplanned giftsgrants and fundraising events to fund operations. Visit www.Elachee.org.

Media Contacts: 770-535-1976

Melissa Reid, Director of Schools, Elachee Nature Academy

Kim Marks, Director of Development & Communications, Elachee Nature Science Center