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Thursday, June 13, 2024


Aug. 22, 2001 – For 24 Virgin Islands youngsters, the highlight of their summer vacation was probably attending an ecology camp on St. John — until Wednesday, that is. That's when they all got to go aboard the cruise ship Disney Magic, where they received a warm welcome and some environmental messages from the cast and crew.
The St. John and St. Thomas youngsters, ages 8-14, recently attended one of four eco-camp sessions sponsored this summer by Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park and funded in part through a $5,000 grant from the Disney Cruise Line. Camp consisted of three days and two nights spent at the V.I. Environmental Resources station overlooking Lameshur Bay, learning about near-shore ecosystems and the marine and terrestrial ecology of the island environment they all call home.
The Disney Cruise Line was the sole private-sector contributor to the eco-camp program. The group that toured the Disney Magic on Wednesday was the second one invited aboard during the ship's calls this summer at the West Indian Co. dock on St. Thomas.
The ship's staff coordinator, Darren McBurney, led the youngsters on an hour-long tour of the ship, starting at the gangway, the proceeding up a glass elevator, down a tubular slide, across the circular pool deck and into one Disney-theme game room after another. The kids photographed each other with familiar Disney characters on all five of the vessel's passenger decks.
Capt. Henry Anderssen and the senior officers aboard the Disney Magic joined in celebrating the group's graduation from eco-camp by distributing certificates of completion and posing with the youngsters for photos with Walt Disney's original superstar, Mickey Mouse.
Anderssen took the opportunity to describe to his young guests the plastic and aluminum recycling procedures in place aboard the Disney Magic during its seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruises. As the youngsters looked on wide eyed, he read them the Disney Magic Environmental Pledge.
"The challenges facing the environment today are numerous," Anderssen said. "We want to help the experts create solutions to these issues, as well as support educational opportunities for the youth of today to prepare to be the future stewards of our environment."
After the grand tour and the presentations, there was still time for cookies and soft drinks before the return to shore.
According to a company release, Disney Cruise Line community outreach programs "improve the lives of children and contribute to environmental responsibility in the countries and communities in which the company lives and does business."
"We really appreciate the support and hospitality of Disney Cruise Line," Trudy Toliver, development director for Friends of the V.I. National Park, said. "It allowed us to provide the children with a unique outdoor educational experience and a memorable visit to the Disney Magic. Eco-camps give us a chance to give something back to Virgin Islands families. The kids have fun." And as they are the territory's future decision makers, she added, "it's important that they learn about their natural world."
In addition to the Disney grant, the V.I. Agriculture Department Urban and Community Forestry Program provided a grant of $5,185 for the eco-camp program. The remainder of the $20,000 cost of the four summer 2001 eco-camp sessions was paid for by the Friends organization.
The Friends is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the natural and cultural resources of the V.I. National Park. For further details, visit its web site at www.friendsvinp.org.

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