Friends seek to honor Cheryl Messenger
Monday, August 01, 2016

With the help of the friends of Cheryl Messenger, the Friends of Mammoth Cave seek to continue her legacy of helping kids become nature-lovers.  The Cheryl Messenger Memorial Fund provides trip assistance awards to schools and organizations to experience Mammoth Cave National Park through environmental education (EE).

Cheryl Messenger, EE coordinator at Mammoth Cave National Park, passed away on February 26, 2016, following a quiet battle with cancer.  Cheryl worked in the Mammoth Cave EE program for more than twenty years and led it for the last ten.

How to describe this extraordinary woman?  She was a force of nature, a friend of nature; a scholar and a teacher; a wife, mom and grandma; a savvy thinker; a ranger. 

Among her accomplishments, she was an active, award-winning member of the Kentucky Association of Environmental Educators.  She served as a gubernatorial appointee on the Kentucky Commission of Environmental Educators, and was certified as a Master Kentucky Environmental Educator.  Cheryl was a nationally-recognized leader in her field.

Her constant goal: connect kids with the outdoors.

At Mammoth Cave, school trips are not just a day out of the classroom.  Cheryl and her staff went beyond package curricular, developing their own lessons on fossils, ecology, and fire.  Each year, the EE team helps thousands of school kids “find their park,” through pond studies, spelunking, pioneer adventures, drawing, relay races and poetry. 

“Under Cheryl’s leadership, the EE program at Mammoth Cave grew to be the second largest in the National Park Service, with over 45,000 student contacts last year,” said Dave Wyrick, chief of interpretation and EE.  “She was equally committed to the education of teachers, and she trained more than 5,000 teachers at Mammoth Cave workshops.”

“Cheryl’s legacy continues in our work at Mammoth Cave and through the children she influenced,” said Ranger Jennifer Shackelford.  Shackelford, the new EE coordinator, was one of those children.  “Cheryl was my professional mentor, but we first met when I came to Mammoth Cave on a fourth grade field trip.  She led us through the woods and told us about plants and animals.  It opened my eyes to new possibilities - I didn’t know there was such a thing of a lady ranger!”

With their bus transportation grants, the Friends of Mammoth Cave are working to expand the EE program to reach as many students and teachers as possible. 

This summer, the Friends are supporting day camps at the Park in several ways:
• Transportation grants
• Commemorative copies of Cheryl's favorite book, "The Giving Tree," for 4th and 5th grade campers
• Healthy snacks from local farmers through the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green
• Instructional supplies

During the school year, the Friends offer trip assistance awards to school groups for EE field trips to the Park.

“It is fitting to honor Cheryl by enhancing her work,” said Helen Siewers, executive director of the Friends of Mammoth Cave.  “Cheryl understood the value of the Park being the best classroom for EE lessons.  We invite others to join us by contributing to her memorial fund.”

To stay informed about our work in Cheryl’s memory, please visit us at To sign up for our enewsletter, look for instructions at the upper right corner of our home page.

Through this fund, Cheryl’s legacy will live on in the teachers and students who benefited from her work. Thank you for your support!

The Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park, Inc., is a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax deductible.

Cheryl Messenger -Grants