Debbie Claypool with the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont has seen it happen again and again, but she still enjoys the transformation.
Fifth grade students coming to Tremont for Environmental Camp get upset as soon as they hit that part of the park where their cell phones don’t work.
“These kids will come in with cell phones and get upset when their cell phones don’t work. They’ve never had life without them,” Claypool said. “After a couple of days in the river looking for salamanders, they don’t even want their cell phones.”
Claypool is a member of the Tremont Legacy Committee and was on hand Sept. 18 for the Tremont Annual Homecoming and Dinner on the Grounds. Money raised from the event funds scholarships that allow underprivileged students to attend Tremont. About 140 guests turned out for the event that raised $15,000, said Heather Davis, marketing communications specialist with Tremont.
Claypool said Tremont has a good effect on students. “I call this place ‘nature’s Prozac,’” she said. “It gives a sense of being and tranquility.”
Author Dwight McCarter was the speaker for the evening. He is a native of Townsend who was raised the Smoky Mountains area of Blount County. He served with the National Park Service as a ranger for 30 years before retiring in 1994. Now he works at Blackberry Farm as a naturalist. “My boy went through Tremont,” he said. “It was one of his most enjoyable times, and he loved it.”
Sandi Byrd, director of development, said this is the fifth year for the homecoming and dinner. “It’s a time to celebrate Tremont and celebrate kids who come and learn and have a fun time doing it,” she said.
Ken Voorhis, executive director of Tremont, said the event is vital for enabling students to attend the facility. “What we’re excited about is involving kids and educating people about the Park,” he said. “These are things we’re already doing at Tremont.”
Music for the event was provided by the band 6ix Mile Express. Even the band had a Tremont story. Garrett Gregg plays guitar and sings with the group, and he spent time as a youngster at Tremont. “I really enjoyed it,” he said. “To be able to give this to kids is awesome.”
Table sponsors for the event included The Trust Company and Pershing, Yoakley and Associates. Jon’s Golf Cars provided vehicles to shuttle guests back and forth to the parking area. Miss Lily’s Café and Catering and Tremont Institute Food Service provided the food and Browns Creek Wine and Spirits, Marble City Brewery and Eagle Distributing provided beverages.