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River rescuer Pregracke will share his story

Public is invited to convocation lecture Dec. 9

December  05, 2010

Chad Pregracke, nationally acclaimed environmentalist and founder of Living Lands & Waters, will lecture at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9, in Centennial Hall, 3703 7th Ave., as part of Augustana’s convocation series. The public is invited.

His lecture, “Making a Difference: Helping to Clean America’s Rivers,” will share his environmental journey from picking up trash as a teenager to founding a nonprofit organization that has removed millions of pounds of trash from America’s watersheds.

Pregracke grew up near Hampton, Ill., with the Mississippi River in his backyard. By the time he was 17 years old, he was disgusted by the trash that accumulated on the river’s banks and decided to take action, one piece of garbage at a time. When he was 23, Pregracke founded a nonprofit organization, Living Lands & Waters, headquartered in East Moline.

Today, the organization’s 10 full-time employees and more than 60,000 volunteers travel to an average of nine states a year cleaning up the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Potomac rivers, as well as many of their tributaries. Pregracke loves having the opportunity to work with a variety of people and in such diverse geographic locations.

“You can see the results of our work on a daily, weekly and yearly basis, and that’s among my favorite parts of what I do,” he said.

In addition to community cleanups, Living Lands & Waters provides free educational workshops in which participants get an up-close river experience on a “floating classroom.” The organization also started the MillionTrees Project, which plants trees in damaged watersheds, and the Adopt-a-River Mile program. Many people in the Quad Cities take part in the group's annual Xstream Cleanup.

In 2002, Pregracke received a Jefferson Award for Public Service, along with Rudolph Giuliani, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Lilly Tartikoff. His projects have been filmed by many of the major networks and television shows such as CNN, MTV, PBS, “Today Show,” “CBS Sunday Morning Show,” “NBC Nightly News,” and the list goes on and on. Time, People Magazine, Readers’ Digest, Life, Outside, Smithsonian and National Geographic are among the numerous publications that have featured Pregracke.

Despite his growing acclaim as an environmentalist, Pregracke’s employees and volunteers say he remains as down-to-earth and hardworking as when he started. In between writing, lecturing and traveling, he can be found at community cleanups, removing trash from rivers.

Pregracke willingly endures his crazy schedule because he believes cleaning America’s rivers is such a vital issue. “I wouldn’t be coming to give this talk if I didn’t think it was important and that people can get something out of it,” he said. “My story shows what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it.”

For more information on Pregracke’s lecture, email Scott Cason or call (309) 794-7323.