Seven Locks third-grader Aniket Vadapalli had a lot of questions to ask when a mule named Lil showed up beside his school last Thursday.
Barbara Collins, a volunteer for C&O Canal at Great Falls and Georgetown, was in period costume as she fielded questions from Vadapalli and his classmates. Why do you have all girl mules? Has Lil ever gone mad? Does she ever get tired of pulling the boats?
Lil came from C&O Canal in Georgetown to thank the Seven Locks students. "We just want to thank you for all the good things you’ve done," Collins told the students. Once a mule that helped pull canal boats between Great Falls Tavern and Swains Lock, Lil moved to Georgetown after the Canal Clipper boat sank.
With Lil, Collins and C&O Canal park rangers at the school, Seven Locks Elementary third-graders Peter Jablonski and Eric Rosenberg presented the National Park Service with a check for $3,200 to help replace the Canal Clipper on June 10.
SEVEN LOCKS third-graders raised the money through a walk through the Six Locks stretch of the canal towpath between Great Falls Tavern and Widewater last month. Students began the project after they went to Great Falls on a field trip last year, only to find the boat was out of commission.
"We’re thrilled and inspired by the work they’ve done," said Kathy Kupper, acting chief of interpretation for C&O Canal National Historical Park. Kupper gave Seven Locks Principal Rebecca Gordon a plaque shaped like a canal boat, thanking the students for their work.
Since Seven Locks students began the fundraising project, Friends of the Great Falls Tavern and the C&O Canal Association have also contributed to the cause.
Replacing the Canal Clipper will cost an estimated $1 million. While four-figure donations seem like a drop in the bucket for a six-figure expenditure, they are an important means of showing community interest, and increase the likelihood of federal funding in future budgets. Restoration projects for the Monocacy Aqueduct and the towpath along Widewater began with private donations before Congress authorized federal funding for the projects.
Gordon was proud to see her students help start the process. "They’ve been able to set a high goal and achieve it. It’s an action that benefits the entire community," Gordon said.