Volunteers Are a Crucial Part of Keeping Valley Forge Vibrant, Interesting and Accessible

DonDon Naimoli is a close friend of Valley Forge National Historical Park. He's also an "official" friend.

Naimoli is Board Chair of the Friends of Valley Forge, an organization devoted to highlighting the park's public support, use, enjoyment and stewardship of its natural and historical resources.

It is a deep-seated relationship, stretching back well beyond his eight years with the Friends. "I was a history geek," he says, describing his background. "I grew up in South Philadelphia in the shadow of Independence Hall. And I used to spend a lot of time at Independence Hall and Carpenters Hall."

His interest in the Revolutionary War sparked an affinity toward Valley Forge. "I grew up in a neighborhood of tight row homes. But Valley Forge caught my imagination, and I used to think, Wouldn't it be cool to live there?"

The promise of escape proved to be a powerful draw. "I remember the first solo trip I took to Valley Forge. It was when I got my license at 16. I borrowed my mother's car and drove out the Schuylkill Expressway to Valley Forge. And I just drove around and looked at everything. And when I got home, my mother said, ‘Where have you been?' And I never lied to my mother because she always could tell. So I told her. And I got grounded for two weeks. But I came to Valley Forge."

What is the draw?  He's quick to explain: "I just love Valley Forge. The history, for me. You can walk right in and you can feel it. You can see it. Plus the fact, just look at the place. The open spaces. You look out here and you look across the fields and you listen to the quiet and it's special. It's magical."

To his way of thinking, Valley Forge is a place where you may be attracted by one aspect - the history, for example - but then discover its other joys. So people who frequent the park just for its running trails often become swept up in the natural beauty. And photographers learn to appreciate the resident wildlife. "Valley Forge is an oasis in a sea of urbanization, and people flock to it. For rejuvenation. For reflection. For exercise. I want people to love Valley Forge as much as I love Valley Forge. For whatever reason."

According to Naimoli, Valley Forge contributes to the quality of life to all of Montgomery County. "It's important," he cites. "People move to this area because of Valley Forge. Employers, companies, draw on the local employees, and their employees, in turn, benefit from their use of the park. People get their exercise there before they go to work or after they finish work. It makes them healthier and more well-balanced. Which makes them better employees."

The treasure that is Valley Forge stays inviting and invigorating through the efforts of the National Park Service staff; however, Naimoli points out that resources on the federal level are often limited. The role of volunteers in keeping the park in pristine condition - both now and for future generations - is crucial. He is very supportive, therefore, of the Ninth Annual Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-Mile Run®, a community-wide event scheduled for April 27, 2014, because it helps ensure the park's vitality.

Volunteers at the Valley Forge Revolutionary Run

The Friends of Valley Forge will be out in full force the morning of the run, assisting with not only the five-mile course around the park but also the Young Patriot's Fun Run and the walk to/from the National Memorial Arch. You can lend a hand, too. Check out what jobs need filling by visiting the Rev Run website.

The roles are varied and doable by people with a variety of skill sets. Naimoli lists only one requirement: "We insist that you have fun," he concludes.

The view along the Rev Run course is spectacular, providing a wide vista of open countryside. It's also possible to see some of the other destinations the area has to offer, including some of our most high-profile hotels and accommodations. If the sneak-peek from the hills of the park give you the notion to stay over for a night or two (or three), check out the list of recommended lodgings on our website.