Ralph White River Hero Award

2016 Winners Announced

For the first time, all the winners of the Ralph White River Hero Award were women. Below find only a portion of their accomplishments:

Molly Dellinger-Wray served on the board of Friends of the James River Park for 15 years – two terms as president, led a major community discussion on dogs in the park, launched the Friends’ Protection and Preservation Fund for JRPS, hosted innumerable FOJRP board retreats at her house, and continues volunteering in the park.

With a wealth of experiential knowledge about the JRPS, Tricia Pearsall has led guided tours around the river for students, is a board member of the James River Outdoor Coalition, a member of the James State Scenic River Advisory Committee and the T. Tyler Potterfield Damwalk Art Commission, and is educating fisherfolk about littering.

As treasurer of the James River Outdoor Coalition, Sally Wetzler has long kept its hands-on projects within budget and on schedule. She works to secure accessibility to the James River for all, including the disabled, and, as a paraplegic who kayaks, she serves as a role model to disabled people pursuing adventure sports, doing so as a volunteer for Sportable.

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Celebrating the River Heroes

The award ceremony took place on Tuesday, May 10, on the 15th floor of the Troutman Sanders Building, overlooking the James River Heavy hors d'oeuvres and beverages were served.

History of the Award

In 2011, The Friends of the James River Park launched the River Heroes Award to acknowledge and honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to James River Park. The award is now called the Ralph White River Hero Award in honor of former Park Manager Ralph White — one of the 2014 River Hero Award recipients.

Past recipients' wide-ranging efforts included volunteer work, educational efforts, preservation, and promotional activities that encourage responsible use of the Park. Their contributions have been showcased at the Friends of James River Park annual picnic at the Historic Pump House.

Nomination Categories

The nomination period is now closed for 2016.

Individuals, companies, or organizations may be nominated. To qualify, projects must be coordinated with Park staff and contribute to one or more of the following areas:

  • Preservation: Enhance, protect and/or preserve James River Park for future generations through leadership, hands-on volunteer work or changes to public policy.
  • Education: Create educational opportunities by leading educational or recreational groups through the Park and encouraging responsible Park stewardship.
  • Promotion: Promote the park to the public and/or Park visitors through art/film/photography, projects, lectures, and other activities.


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Who is a River Hero?

Anyone who has worked to make the James River a better place for both people and wildlife.

Read the 2016 River Heroes Award Press Release (PDF)