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July 21, 2022

Outdoors with Kevin

A frog in hand, Tic Tac Toe with sticks, parkour jumps from stump to stump, horseback riding, pausing during a walk to stare at a snail - these are just a few of the adventures with Kevin in the outdoors. As Kevin’s Friend, I join him during those nature walks weekly, if not in person, at least remotely over video chat.

Kevin likes it when I ask nature or science trivia questions like: What is the smallest bird? What is the largest bird? We read and discuss fun facts like:

• A bee hummingbird is the smallest living bird.

• Hummingbirds can fly backward.

• The ostrich is the largest bird in the world.

Kevin ponders each trivia question makes an educated guess and normally does not skip a beat. His therapist and I are profoundly impressed by his knowledge about birds and other animals and work in tandem to support and nurture this spark. Every week I find new trivia questions to ask him online or in person. He is an animal trivia whiz!

Over the course of those several months working remotely, his therapist brought Kevin to different places, such as parks, horseback riding, and the Portland Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary where care is provided to injured birds. During a Portland Audubon outing, Kevin asks me questions over video chat to see if I can guess the different bird species. I guess the Spotted Owl and Eagle correctly. However, he stumps me on a species of a particular hawk. Kevin and his therapist send me hints throughout the week, as I stumble with my guesses to identify this mysterious bird.

After several text messages and days later, I finally guess it correctly on our next video call. Proudly I tell him, “It’s an American Kestrel!”

When not in video chats Kevin and his therapist send photos of birds they discover during their adventures, and I try to guess what it is. Sometimes they send hints or a link where I can research on my own a bit. The three of us share a Spark for nature, animals, and being outdoors - we explore together.

Virtually, over the months when we worked remotely, I went on several walks with Kevin through Portland area parks. In one video chat, Kevin stops to ask if I can hear the call of a bird. He mimics the sound and tells me; it is a chickadee. Kevin stoops down to pick up an insect that he places on his shoulder. He walks with his new beetle friend. We’re all in awe as to the length of time the insect stays on his shoulder as he walks until its wings stretch out and it takes flight.

As I’ve worked with Kevin, he has grown his Spark for nature, science, and now ornithology by leaps and bounds. Now, with the weather warming up and being back in person, we have our sights set on visits to local parks and nature hikes. And who knows, maybe we will spot an American Kestrel in the wild!

This story was shared by Rock Rathgeb, a longtime Friend at FriendsPDX, and is featured in our 2021 Impact Report. The name of the youth has been changed for privacy purposes.

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