OCR sponsors events as well as providing recreational equipment

By Johanna Harris

Take a break from your studying or lethargic TV watching and glance out the nearest window. What do you see? A bunch of empty beer bottles from last night’s bash? Well, aside from that, notice the vibrant color of the leaves that are now changing. Notice the bright blue sky. Notice the sunlight that gives the landscape a radiant glow.

Now you’re thinking that you’d like to be out there, feeling the sun’s warmth on your face and letting the cool breeze bring you the smell of cookouts and burning leaves.

Sure, you could gather up a few friends and toss a football around on the nearest field. However, you could also be kayaking and canoeing down the Rock River, biking in Wisconsin or even caving.

What, you say you don’t have the equipment for these excursions? Well, the OCR Outdoor Recreation Program will not only supply you and your friends with canoes, kayaks, tents, sleeping bags, etc., but will organize the whole trip and even provide transportation for a very small fee.

According to Ashley Sweda, faculty advisor for the Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club (a support club for OCR-Outdoors), a person doesn’t need previous experience with canoeing and rock climbing in order to participate in these trips. “We’re going for all the people who aren’t experienced,” Sweda said. “There’s a huge need out there that’s not being tapped – as far as outdoor (recreation).”

This program was conceptualized by Sweda and has only been established for about three weeks. He also trains the staff, a rapidly growing group of about 40 trip leaders who are skilled in all the different types of recreation. Sweda says he’s building more clients and right now the staff is a mixture of students and faculty.

Sweda said the outdoor events range from high to low adventure. The rock climbing and kayaking are obvious examples of high adventure trips.

However, a person could also partake in a relaxing, romantic evening gazing at the stars through this outdoor program. Indeed, once a month the Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club will take you out to the country where qualified people will teach you about the constellations (and the myths behind them) of the night sky. Other low-adventure trips include bird-watching, photographing the outdoors and fishing.

The list of events that OCR-Outdoors sponsors is huge, although some of them have yet to be developed. The planning and funding for the club takes a lot of time and Sweda admits that he’s trying to do it all right now.

By becoming a club, OCR-Outdoors now receives some funding from S.A., but Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club president Laurie Mainczyk said that fundraising is a concern right now.

To raise some money the group is planning to sell apple cider during Parent’s Weekend right by the tailgating area. For some added spice, there will be some famous kite flyers showing off their hand-made kites – one being a whopping 144 feet long!

Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club meets bimonthly at 9 p.m. in the Rec Center where upcoming as well as past events are discussed. The calendar of club activities shows outings for different campus groups like University Plaza and the Honors House.

Anyone who can get a group together is welcome to sign up at the Rec Center for the multitude of trips offered – whether for the day or even overnight. Right now Sweda is also working on a new concept which is targeting faculty-staff trips.

So far the Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club has been very successful. According to Sweda and Mainczyk a past outing at Shabbona Lake was rated A or A+ by all the students in attendance.

The ratings come from an evaluation questionnaire that each participant is asked to complete. Sweda said he is very particular about these surveys since they provide valuable feedback for the club.

If being in the great outdoors doesn’t interest you though, there’s still plenty of indoor sporting activity offered through programs at the Office of Campus Recreation.

For a minimal fee, tai chi, an ancient Chinese exercise, yoga and aerobics are taught by an instructor at the Rec Center. Like the Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club, the Rec Center receives funds from S.A. and is funded by the state of Illinois as well, which explains why their services are so cheap.

OCR also helps sports clubs like the rugby, lacrosse and fencing clubs get organized. According to OCR director Betty Montgomery, the clubs basically organize themselves and then OCR helps with budgeting and transportation.

For the non-physical person the Creative Arts Centre, located in the Rec Center offers woodworking, jewelry making and ceramics sessions, taught mainly by trained student instructors. The Centre also has open hours for the artists who prefer to create their masterpieces on their own.

Located on the lower level of Neptune North is the OCR photo lab where any shutterbug (with an NIU I.D.) can make use of its developing chemicals for 50 cents an hour.

Gabel Pool (and Anderson Pool, when repairs there are finished) is also a part of the OCR program and at certain times of the day students can swim there under the supervision of an OCR lifeguard.

Of course, all the regular activities at the Rec Center like racquetball, wallyball, volleyball, basketball, and tennis are still offered to any student with a valid student I.D. Students are required to reserve courts for some of the sports like tennis and racquetball.

Montgomery said that there are 250 students working for the campus recreation program and that it’s “really a student organization.”

Other activities OCR sponsors include a non-alcoholic bar for Parent’s Day and the Thanksgiving Classic run. On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, OCR along with General Motors will even sponsor an auto expo on the MLK Commons.

The Rec Center is open every day and the number to call for further information is 753-0231.

So, if you’re concerned that you’re lacking in physical activity, your worries are over. Whether inside or outside, NIU’s Office of Campus Recreation has a multitude of programs to offer that are guaranteed to keep you mentally and physically fit!

There’s a huge need out there that’s not being tapped – as far as outdoor (recreation).”

Ashley Sweda, faculty adviser for the Rocks and Rivers Outdoor Club