Nov 22, 2012 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
On April 10, 2008, 24-year-old Gretchen Snedeker was driving through the city of Oneida when she was hit head on by a vehicle traveling at 55 mph. The driver, a mechanic whose license had been suspended seven times, survived. Gretchen did not.
She was rushed to the hospital and died four hours later, leaving just enough time for her parents, Jay and Kathy, to get to her and say goodbye. According to Kathy, the doctors said Gretchen was holding on for them to arrive.
It was determined the mechanic caused the accident; he was inspecting a vehicle while driving and took his eyes off the road to look under the dash when he collided with Gretchen. As a result, her parents received a settlement, which the couple has devoted to honoring their daughter.
“We wanted all the money to go toward things that would really make her smile,” Kathy said, noting the monies have been donated to creative arts, literacy, animal rescue, dressed for success and the Eastman School, where Gretchen was a standout student. “I think it’s best to try and somehow make the best of that horrific situation. Insurance money doesn’t replace a life, but if you give it some thought, you can direct it in an appropriate manner – you can use it to honor the life.”
The Baldwinsville couple’s most recent project has been Gretchen’s Green Room, a children’s room at Beaver Lake Nature Center where their daughter used to volunteer. The center has a special place in the Snedeker’s hearts. In fact, the family held a memorial walk in Gretchen’s honor at Beaver Lake a few weeks after her death.
“It’s such an incredible natural resource – they have a passion for Mother Nature,” Kathy said. “It’s where we connect the most to her.”
According to Kathy, Gretchen had an amazing musical talent since she was a baby and began playing the French horn in fifth grade.
“The French horn is one of the most difficult instruments to play,” Kathy said. But that didn’t stop Gretchen who continued playing and eventually received dual high school degrees from Eastman School of Music and Newark (near Lyons).
“She was a very exceptional musician,” Kathy said, adding pieces of music have been composed for Gretchen, who traveled all around the world playing with the Eastman Ensemble. At the time of her death, she was an adjunct professor of the French Horn at Colgate working toward her master’s degree.
“Gretchen was so good to everyone she knew. [She] did everything she came here to do and then some in her short 24 and a half years,” Kathy said. “She made an incredible impact.”
While music was Gretchen’s passion, she also had a soft spot for nature.
“She really couldn’t get enough of the outdoors. She was a hard kid to keep inside,” Kathy said.
After moving to Baldwinsville 10 years ago, Gretchen began volunteering at Beaver Lake Nature Center.
“She didn’t have much time for it, but she walked with her dad there and volunteered for the center,” Kathy said.
According to Heidi Kortright, director of Beaver Lake Nature Center, Gretchen helped out at the front desk, greeting visitors and registering them for programs. She also helped with Mission:Wolf, which is a non-profit organization from Colorado.
“The Friends of Beaver Lake host their program each year,” Kortright said about the event that offers two programs including an evening reception. “Gretchen helped set-up the reception and worked with the wolves – her love.”
Taking into consideration Gretchen’s love for nature, music and education, Beaver Lake was an obvious investment to honor their daughter.
The Snedekers helped transform the existing M&T Charitable Foundation Resource Room into the Gretchen’s Green Room.
Kathy spent countless hours collecting books to fill the children’s library.
“They were thinking 10 to 20 books, I was thinking 750 books,” she said. “I was constantly book hunting, it really occupied my time and energy on difficult days.”
The library component of the children’s room was a no-brainer as Gretchen was never without a book, Kathy said. In addition to shelves of books about nature (both fiction and non-fiction), the room also features a reading tent with bean bag, puzzles, cubby holes full of animal hand puppets, a display of insect finger puppets, board games based on nature and more. Kathy hopes to incorporate a computer, as well, so children with introvert tendencies have a way to share.
“[The Children’s Room] is meant to enhance the children’s overall experience at Beaver Lake,” she said.
Kathy believes the center, along with the new room, can also help children understand the “big things in life.”
“Nature teaches a lot about life and death, about loss and acceptance of those things,” she said, adding, “I feel that children that spend time outdoors are better citizens of the world. Nature is good for little people and big people.”
Beaver Lake Nature Center is located at 8477 E. Mud Lake Road in Baldwinsville; call 638-2519.
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