WAGRAM — Though canoes, paddles, life jackets and lunch will be provided to those participating in Saturday’s “Lumbee River Experience” to benefit students participating the Laurinburg-Oban Sister Cities Exchange, those out for a morning of peaceful paddling may want to bring sunscreen.
The event is titled the “Sunburnt Boy/Sunburnt Girl” in honor of Scotland County native John Charles McNeill, who more than a century ago distilled into word form the sense of discovery that accompanies a paddle down the Lumber River.
The Laurinburg Rotary Club, the Young Professionals Network-Scotland, and the Laurinburg-Oban Sister Cities Association are sponsoring the event as a fundraiser for students selected to participant in the annual high school student exchange.
Rising Scotland High School senior Bryce Dial, who travelled to Oban last month with the exchange, described it as a “life-changing experience.”
“Anybody can just travel to Scotland, but to be over there and stay with a family and experience culture that’s a whole different thing,” he said.” If somebody wants to do it, they should be able to do it.”
Each June, the exchange sends a group of 10 to 12 Scotland County high school students to Oban for two weeks. In return, they host their Scottish counterparts during a visit to Laurinburg in October.
“We were only over there for two weeks but he’s still become a really really good friend and I’m looking forward to him coming over here,” Dial said of his Scottish host.
Currently, the exchange raises about $4,500 per year to cover travel expenses for participants with financial need, but that is less than half what is needed.
“We just decided it was time; we’ve realized that we have more people needing money to go on the Oban Exchange than we have funds,” said Beacham McDougald, who has helped to coordinate the exchange since its inception in 1993.
“McNeill basically describes life on what he calls the Lumbee River, and trying to tap into Scotland County’s heritage we decided to use that as the name for the event.”
Registration for the experience will be held from 9-10 a.m. on Saturday at the Lumber River State Park Chalk Banks Access Area north of Wagram. The guided canoe trip will set off at 10 a.m., covering the four miles, by river, between Chalk Banks and the landing at U.S. 401.
“It’s going to be a nice little thing,” McDougald said. “The first thing is we want to have fun, we want to have fun is the second thing, and the third thing is that we want to raise some funds.”
Once all canoes return to dry land, a lunch of sandwiches, drinks, and ice cream will be served and Dr. Mary Wayne Watson, a representative of the N.C. Humanities Council and great-niece of McNeill, will read McNeill’s poem, “Sunburnt Boys,” and present certificates to all participants.
The requested donation for participation in the Sunburnt Boy/Sunburnt Girl Lumbee River Experience is $100 per person, but as little as $25 may be accepted if space allows.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.