Audubon’s Wild 5K

She sits serenely, gazing down with intent eyes on the school-aged children searching the enclosure for her. The collective gasp when they finally spot her on her high perch is enough to pull the youthful wonder out of anyone.

“This is Liberty,” explains an Audubon naturalist. “She is an American Bald Eagle who came to us in 2002, all the way from Washington state.”

Everyone listens intently as Liberty’s story is told, perhaps even she likes to hear the tale-she pipes up with a few notes of her own, perhaps correcting a detail or two, much to the delight of her observers.

In the spring and summer months, this scene is a daily occurrence as hundreds of classes, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, come to the Audubon Center & Sanctuary for Discovery Walks. Then of course, in the summer, kids who attend day camps get to meet her. In the fall and winter, she is still there, astonishing passersby by braving all sorts of weather without showing much concern.

Liberty is considered non-releasable because of an injury to her left wing. This old wound, despite attempts at rehabilitation, prevents her from flying well enough to hunt in the wild. She will spend the rest of her life here at Audubon, the charge of a handful of very dedicated volunteers.

Liberty has long been a favorite at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary. People of all ages have visited her, donated fish to feed her, sponsored her and even signed up to help fund her care for a year. You have yet another opportunity to help support Audubon and, this year, our feathered celebrity-and it’s just what the doctor ordered, some fresh air and exercise! The Audubon Center & Sanctuary will host the Wild 5K on Saturday, July 26. Back by popular demand, this trail run/walk has historically attracted outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and levels of running experience. You may remember when the race was called the “Run for Liberty.”

The course hasn’t changed. The race still winds through a beautiful wetland sanctuary. Over bridges and through fields, you will find yourself enjoying a variety of settings-cool, forested trails; bright, cricket-filled meadows; cattail-adorned pond edges; even a garden path. Audubon’s well-maintained trails offer a unique racing atmosphere that will both challenge and inspire.

Of course, if running isn’t your forte, there are other ways to be a part of this exciting event. While we will certainly accept runners’ registrations up through 9:45 a.m. on race day, we are also currently looking for walkers, volunteers and sponsors. We want to involve as many people as possible in Liberty’s success story. We had over 130 runners and walkers participate in this event in the past and we will need the help of more than 50 volunteers to make the race run smoothly on Saturday. No matter what you are most comfortable with, your help will make our Wild 5K successful. Audubon is even teaming up with Distinguished Young Women candidates to offer free, nature-themed events for children age 10 and under during the hours of the race.

A small race committee has been working hard since February to make sure that everyone involved has a memorable experience. Audubon staff members have joined forces with local individuals including Jeff Rupp, David Hedberg and Ellen Paquette. Rupp, owner of Sideline Sports in Jamestown, has generously donated prizes for the overall finishers in the running category as well as copious amounts of time advertising and co-coordinating the event. Hedberg, also of Jamestown, was recently named co-recipient of the State Association’s Official of the Year award (Southwestern Chapter) and has kindly agreed to map the course and coordinate the finish line. Paquette, of Warren, Pennsylvania, is a renowned local artist who serves on the Jamestown Audubon’s Board of Directors; she has also graciously contributed her time and creative expertise to the coordination process.

But it’s not too late to get involved. Liberty’s care costs approximately $7,500 per year, supporting us in our Wild 5K is a great way to help us offset that total and it will allow Liberty to continue to thrill the children (and adults) who visit her here regularly. Please consider investing in Liberty’s future with us this year as we look forward to this unique race. Let’s go Wild!

All Wild 5K associated activities will be held on the trails at the Audubon Center & Sanctuary on July 26. Check-in and same-day registration will be from 8-9:45 a.m. The race will start at 10 a.m. Registration forms, sponsorship forms and volunteer opportunities can be found online at wild5k.wordpress.com/. If you have any questions, call the Audubon Center at 569-2345. Please consider coming out to support Liberty.

Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails and Liberty viewing are available from dawn to dusk, and the center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except Sundays when we open at 1 p.m. For more information call the center or visit jamestownaudubon.org.