Caring for the Kenai winners receive EPA award

Winning team of the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai was selected for the President’s Environmental Youth Award

The winners of the 34th Annual Caring for the Kenai Competition, held in April, have been selected by the Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to receive the prestigious President’s Environmental Youth Award, a Wednesday, June 19, press release from Caring for the Kenai program creator Merrill Sikorski announced.

The EPA recognized students from across the country, in each of their 10 regions, for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and stewardship, the release states. The PEYA Program has recognized “outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth” for more than 50 years, since the establishment of the original Environmental Education Act of 1970.

The Caring for the Kenai winning team is made up of four central peninsula-area students from Girl Scout Troop 210, including Caitlyn Eskelin from Kenai Central High School, Emma Hindman from River City Academy, Kadie Newkirk from Connections Homeschool and Lyberty Stockman from Soldotna High School. They were nominated for the award by Sikorski and Troop 210 leader Leah Eskelin.

The team claimed first place with their bucket lending trees, which they built and deployed at campgrounds within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

“Sometimes campers don’t have enough water with them to drown their fire before leaving, so we created, engineered and built a bucket lending tree near a water source at campgrounds where you can fill the bucket, douse your fire and return the bucket for someone else to use,” Caitlyn Eskelin said in the release.

The team intends to bring their bucket trees to campgrounds across Alaska, and possibly even the Lower 48, Newkirk said in the release.

“Being selected to receive the President’s Environmental Youth Award is one of the highest honors of recognition that a young person can receive because it not only recognizes a youth’s environmental awareness but their moral commitment to follow through with a project that improves the quality of life for all living things,” Sikorski wrote in the release. “This is the eighth time youth from our community have been chosen for this honor. It speaks highly to our teachers and community leaders who support the CFK program.”

The students are invited to attend an awards presentation on Aug. 1 in Washington, D.C. A GoFundMe page is available to donate to help the team cover transportation and housing costs. Find the GoFundMe fundraiser at

Previous reporting on the 34th annual Caring for the Kenai competition can be found online at