BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn — When Education Ranger Bill Herman leads a hike through the Smoky Mountains, he hopes it's a step towards sparking a life-long love of nature.
"What we want them to do is bond with the parks, and then when they get older, they're going to be our future leaders. Then, they'll want to support the park and keep it going for generations and generations," Herman said.
As summer vacation comes to a close, he leads a group of kids from the Vestal Boys & Girls Club on a hike to Look Rock Observation Tower.
"It was kind of hard going up the hill, but when I went down the hill, I started going fast," Adrian Piggush said.
For many of them, it's the first time they'll experience the park's breathtaking views.
"I haven't ever been this high," one child exclaimed.
"I can see grass, buildings, cars, and fields," said another.
"I thought I'd be able to see the Boys & Girls club from here, but I couldn't," Piggush said.
The adventure was picture-perfect, and Herman hopes it's the beginning of each's child's life-long relationship with the park.
The 25th annual Friends Across the Mountains telethon broadcast will be held Wednesday night on WBIR Channel 10 to benefit Friends of the Smokies.
To donate, click the button above or call in during telethon, which will be live from 7 to 8 p.m.