Local residents win honorable mention in national contest

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:50

A celebration of nature in a photo Stillwater - Hunter Gallo always keeps a camera on hand to record unexpected moments. And one late winter day last year was no different. What was different was the shot he was able to capture, and, how the photo garnered he and his grandparents, Sheila and Kenneth Mills, Honorable Mention in the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder 2011 photo contest. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sponsored the intergenerational contest, created in honor of American biologist and author Rachel Carson. She wrote numerous books in the 1950s focusing on her concerns with the environment. The article, 'The Sense of Wonder,’ describing the importance of instilling a sense of wonder in each child, was published as a book after Rachel Carson’s death in 1964. The contest requires entries come from a team of a child and an older person. Hunter, who holds a genuine love of the environment, and preserving it, reached the finalist level in the contest last year with parents, Shellene and Brian. The photo they entered showed Brian and Hunter at one of the local vernal pools. The family’s other entry was a mixed media entry, with a story and photo chronicling Hunter’s construction and placement of bluebird houses. This year’s entry came about when Hunter, 10, drove with his mother, Shellene to the home of his grandparents, Sheila and Kenneth Gallo in Stanhope. After pulling into their driveway, Hunter noticed some robins in the snow-covered tree that he and his grandparents kept an eye on for bird watching. “I grabbed my camera and took a picture,” Hunter recalled. “Then I saw the picture I had just took and I was amazed.” Hunter had zoomed in on a male and female robin up in the tree, and captured the moment just right. “I couldn’t believe it, the male had a berry in his mouth,” he said. Hunter enjoys bird watching with his grandparents, who he refers to as Oohma and Papa. For Hunter’s grandparents, bird watching is more than just a visual pleasure. “We love how the birds remind us of the closeness in our own family,” Sheila and Kenneth wrote. “Birds protect, nurture and feed their young until they leave the nest and go off to make a family of their own. We feel happy together watching the birds.” Hunter’s natural sense of curiosity and his overall sense of wonder spans a variety of interests. The home-schooled youngster plays basketball and baseball, and participates in fishing and hunting. He writes his own music and acts, including dabbling in Shakespeare in a show at the Blairstown Theatre. Filmmaking is another way Hunter stretches his creative legs, with an original film, “Journey of Energy” on YouTube. He was an editor and composer on the film, and interviewed other students from The Free Union Homeschoolers in a news anchor style. He has also developed an interest in politics and, said he hopes to run for office someday. Hunter fearlessly asked Gov. Chris Christie at a Hackettstown Town Hall Meeting whether or not he would give tax breaks to home schooling families who pay taxes but do not use the school system. After the governor’s explanation, Christie answered, “Maybe.” But prior to embarking in a political career, Hunter plans to continue to foster his many interests, and, look around at his surroundings for new inspiration for next year’s Sense of Wonder contest. “It’s nice it’s an intergenerational contest, it brings older people together with younger people,” said Shellene. “He’ll be doing this again,” she concluded.