By Myles Geiger
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – Camden County College’s library hosted the kid-friendly Polar Bear Picnic on April 27.
Daniel A. D’Auria, local physician, children’s author and wildlife photographer, led the event, which ran from 10:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. Children and their parents flooded the back of the first floor of the library, which had been set up specifically for the event. Pictures of polar bears and other wildlife lined the walls. On one table was a presentation about bees, next to it were snacks provided by the library in appropriate theme, animal crackers and water.
The morning began with introductions followed by a chance for children to color photos of various animals. Children crowded the tables, hollering for different color crayons to finish their masterpiece. After some time to settle in, D’Auria began a slideshow of various wildlife photos he had taken over the year. He fit the part, dressed in cargo shorts, a button down T-shirt, safari hat and binoculars around his neck. With each picture he asked the children in the crowd what kind of animal it was and what was special about it. He expanded on each photo, noting the story behind it, but also made sure to educate the public as he went.
The slideshow went on for nearly an hour, but nobody seemed to mind. The children remained in their seats yet participated excitedly. After the slideshow came to a close, D’Auria read his latest book, which has yet to be released, “When You Hear Hoofbeats.” The book rhymed as he read it, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and the simple days of childhood.
Approximately 50 people attended the Polar Bear Picnic, consisting of parents with their children. Almost all of the children were younger than 10. Many of them sat with their favorite blanket and stuffed animal.
After reading his story to everyone, the author allowed for a question-and-answer session for all to participate. Parents and children alike had questions to ask. Most of the questions had to do with D’Auria’s adventures or about specific animals he had shown. However, the day ended on a note of passion and will. A young boy asked, “Do you like what you do?” Without hesitation D’Auria responded, “I like being a doctor. I love working with animals. I think it’s really important to enjoy what you do.” That statement rang true with everyone in the room and on that note the event came to an end.