Tuesday, October 28, 2003 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . October 28, 2003 . . . Turfway Park has opened its fourth floor to charitable organizations hosting bingo games to benefit their causes, announced Turfway Park President and CEO Robert N. Elliston. First to take advantage of the track’s easy-to-access location and expansive spaces is the Nature Academy, a non-profit group that provides outdoor and environmental education to inner city and other elementary schoolchildren, handicapped children, and older adults. The Nature Academy will host bingo and assorted pull-tab games at Turfway Park every Saturday and Sunday beginning November 1. Doors open at 5 p.m.; games begin at 7 p.m. Parking is free.
“We are pleased to help the Nature Academy reach its goals,” said Elliston. “Turfway Park has been active in the community since its founding in 1986, and we are glad to be able to provide a location so charitable groups such as the academy can increase their funding.”
The Nature Academy, a 5019(c)(3) corporation, maintains 110 wooded acres and a lodge in Corinth, Kentucky, as well as corporate offices in Burlington. The organization was founded 10 years ago by Rich Detzel. Detzel previously spent 26 years in the blood banking business, first with Hoxworth Blood Center of Cincinnati and then as founder in 1968 of Lexington’s Central Kentucky Blood Center.
The Nature Academy brings groups of children, usually fourth-graders, to its Corinth acreage in the fall and again in the spring. During the winter Detzel visits those same children five separate times to introduce them to a Native American of the Cherokee tribe, show them live animals from raptors to bees, and teach them about recycling. Detzel designed the program to correlate with the science core content required by the Kentucky Department of Education.
While schools help underwrite the cost of the seven-visit program if they can, about 70 percent of the charity’s funding comes from bingo. Corporate sponsors such as Toyota and Procter and Gamble make up the rest. The academy’s annual budget is about $150,000. The organization has 3 staff members and 10 volunteers; most of the latter help run the bingo games.
“Before 9/11, we were in approximately 54 classrooms in 24 schools every year,” said Detzel, referring to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the nation’s capital and New York City.
“The year after 9/11, when state funding for education was cut in the wake of job losses, those numbers dropped to 24 classrooms in 8 schools. Our immediate goal is to return our outreach to pre-9/11 levels.”
As part of its recycling education, the Nature Academy encourages schools to hold paint drives. Students collect white and other latex paint, which is then remanufactured as a premium product and sold at St. Vincent DePaul and Salvation Army stores. Hader Hardware locations serve as collection points as well and also sell the end product.
“Our work reflects the interconnectedness of nature,” Detzel explained. “For instance, we teach children about keeping the environment clean. As a practical example, the children collect paint and keep it out of the water system and landfills. Their proceeds help pay for their transportation to the Nature Academy. And in the end, people with low incomes can buy the paint at low cost and keep up their homes.”
In addition to the programs at Corinth and in classrooms, Detzel has produced professional development programs for teachers to use as they help students explore their immediate environment, their own school grounds.
The Nature Academy also provides programs for older adults and hosts Christmas parties for children from the inner city. The organization is the subject of a Kentucky Life special set to air at 8:30 p.m. on January 17 on KET.