Dayton Upfront

 Dayton Upfront

Wright State University and Dayton Attorney Merle Wilberding

Dayton’s Excellent Adventure
Wright State University and Five Rivers MetroParks’ biennial Adventure Summit captures the human spirit, indoors and out. By Nick Hannah

The largest exposition of outdoor skill, fun and adventure in the Midwest returned to Wright State University’s Student Union on Feb. 14 and 15.

Participants scaled the climbing wall, the Adventure Summit Triathalon, sank competitors’ canoes during Canoe Battleship, and even shed some unwanted clothes all for charity during the Frosty Cheeks 5K run across campus.

Coordinated by Wright State and Five Rivers MetroParks, the event also included keynote speakers Dave Cornthwaite, a world record holder, and Jon Turk, one of National Geographic’s top 10 adventurers in 2012. Both speakers have extensive experience in paddle sports (this year’s event theme), such as canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

Cornthwaite, a British adventurer and author, holds eight world records, and Turk has spent more than 40 years navigating remote and exotic locations.

“Dave’s whole philosophy of non-motorized expeditions appealed to us, and it is something we thought the students would be interested in,” says Amy Anslinger of Wright State University’s Outdoor Recreation Center. “It really ties into what we are all about. Hopefully people leave feeling empowered.”

Cornthwaite is perhaps best known for his Expedition1000 project, in which he aims to complete 25 separate 1,000-mile non-motorized journeys, such as swimming, skateboarding and kayaking. He discovered his passion when he tried skateboarding in Swansea, Wales, to improve his snowboarding skills. Two weeks later he quit his day job to pursue skateboarding.

In 2007, he landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for traveling the farthest distance on a skateboard—3,638 miles from Perth to Brisbane in Australia. He also paddle boarded down the Mississippi River, picking up another world record in the process.

“I never trained for any of these journeys. I just start,” says Cornthwaite. “Anyone could do any of these things that I have done.”

Five Rivers MetroParks hopes the Adventure Summit raises awareness about all of the outdoor activities Dayton offers residents right in their own backyards.

“Five Rivers is really ramping up its offering of outdoor education and recreation offerings, so there was a synergy between the two organizations [Five Rivers and Wright State] that led to this event,” says Kristen Wicker of Five Rivers. “We are offering some river run programs this year, such as the Mad River Run at Eastwood MetroPark, so the selection of speakers with a connection to paddle sports was a natural fit.”

Cornthwaite, who was walking around the summit with a T-shirt bearing the words, “Say Yes More,” admits he has a difficult time saying no to a challenge.

“We all have this innate ability to improve ourselves because we are human. We can evolve instead of just exist,” says Cornthwaite. “Sometimes it’s too easy to do nothing, to say no, and not try new things and develop new skills. I am certainly not a supreme athlete. I just have a really strong ‘yes’ muscle.”

He adds that people realize what they are capable of when they take that first big adventure.

“I recommend everyone take at least one big adventure in their life,” says Cornthwaite.

Laying Down the Law
By Nick Hannah

Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding is back in the spotlight thanks in large part to a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. In January, more than 40,000 students across the state—with 1,200 in the Dayton Public School System—received the second edition of Wilberding’s children’s activity book, Haki and the Rule of Law.

Wilberding found himself in the national spotlight in 2011 when he represented the family of slain Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was denied a base transfer after accusing a fellow Marine of sexual assault and was later murdered while eight months pregnant.

With Haki and the Rule of Law, Wilberding set out to provide the historical background and framework for the U.S. Constitution and rule of law in a way that children can understand.

Haki and the Rule of Law follows the journey of Haki—the Swahili word for “justice”—and explains to children the basic rights and protections they are granted as American citizens. Wilberding wrote the first edition in 2009 and educators welcomed it at the annual Law and Citizenship Conference in Columbus. Educators found that the simple language and the visual art enabled young children to better understand what can be a complex subject matter.

“I was intrigued by the idea of educating children. I want to help underserved children understand the rule of law and the role it plays throughout their life,” says Wilberding. “I aimed to make them more receptive and accepting of the police in their community, to let them know they serve a good purpose.”

Schools across Ohio have been incorporating the book into curriculum with successful results and feedback. The grant from the state bar allows the book to reach more students across the state.

“Whether the kids are waiting for the school bus, obeying a stop sign, waiting in lines, behaving in school or dealing in encounters with police, I want the kids to know that if they follow the rules they will be treated fairly,” adds Wilberding.

Haki and the Rule of Law transports children to 1215 for the signing of the Magna Carta, the framework for the U.S. Constitution.

“To really help children understand what the rule of law is, we have to go back to how it came about and how it developed,” says Wilberding. “What I like about the Magna Carta is that it stated that the King of England was subject to the rule of law itself, and I thought that was an important statement to make.

“It’s certainly not a perfect system, but you start out with a perfect principle, which is that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.”