The “Why” of my commitment to the New River

The “Why” of my commitment to the New River

Dear friends, and friends I have yet to meet,

Coming into this season I find myself reflecting on this last year.  What a whirlwind it has been. New job, new friends and new experiences across the board.  A favorite aunt passed.  My first grandson was born.  Two friends lost their battle to cancer. The oldest daughter got engaged and the red-headed stepdaughter began her sophomore year at Tech. The grandson is taking his first steps.   Like the New River, life ebbs and ever flows.

Many moons ago, when my daughters were little girls with long, braided ponytails, I took them to the Greenbrier River in West Virginia. We lived just a few minutes away from this wonderful resource. It was beautiful and clean and filled with adventure.  It was also free entertainment. This was incredibly vital when I became a single mom of 3 girls while working 2 jobs.  We could spend an hour, or an afternoon, playing on the rocks, searching for salamanders, and making up stories.

Quite often we made the trek to Sandstone Falls, West Virginia and played in the nooks and crannies of the New River. Other days we would get lost and adventure deeper into the New River Gorge, chasing waterfalls and a sunny spot for a bit of a picnic. A well -worn Gazetteer in the hand of the oldest, then the middlest, then littlest. Each learning to navigate through back roads, high roads and not-quite roads. Our travels always took us to some creek, stream, river or waterfall in this beautiful watershed.   As they got older, and I did too, the rivers were there to teach my girls how to swim and float, and eventually, canoe and kayak.

At some point I realized that what the rivers were really teaching them, and me, was how to trust not only the river, but also themselves. How to communicate without words and push our own boundaries as to what we were capable of doing by being on the river.  The river taught them how to read the sky, the waters, and each other.  How to work hard,  paddle and also how to relax.  How to celebrate simple things, and let go of hard things.  Life skills all.

The waters in this particular watershed are mixed with the tears of me and mine – triumphs and defeats.  We are a part of each other.  I suspect it is the same for many, if not all, of you reading this.  The waters were, and are, always there for us.  The girls are all grown now.  Two still live in the watershed, one comes home as often as she can.  The grandson has been immersed in both the New and the Greenbrier Rivers. In the New by his mom and I, and in the Greenbrier by his mom and his real aunties.  A baptism of sorts, and also an introduction.

Increasingly, though, these waters face dangers from all sides. River cleanups catch more and more trash.  Forever chemicals end up in the river, the ocean and our children.  Wildlife species face extinction, or are gone forever. Development and industry encroach the banks.  If we aren’t careful, we could feel impotent and despair.

And yet.  The most powerful antidote to impotence is action.  The most powerful remedy to despair is to restore.  Those little girls of mine could float down the river on a raft or tube on their bellies, their faces almost touching the water, and see clear to the bottom.  I want this for my grandson.  And for his granddaughter.  And for yours.  I desperately want this for every person who lives or visits this incredible watershed and the watersheds it feeds.  Quite simply, this is my “why”  I support the New River Conservancy and this work.   This is the bottom line of my commitment to the New River Conservancy. The children of my children’s children.  I would love to know yours.  Please email me at with your “Why.”  If you are moved to donate or join us, please do so here

Lisa Stansell – Galitz
Marketing & Communications Director

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