190607 Aida Frey Junior Ranger.jpg

Aida Frey’s vest is weighted down by some of the hundreds of Junior Ranger badges she’s earned in the last seven years. 

Aida Frey and parents Shawn and Norma Frey launchfrom their home base in Algonquin, Ill., to visit national parks. 

They’ve been busy at this pursuit since the Junior Ranger bug nipped Aida at age 9 when she earned her first badge at Effigy Mounds National Monument, Harpers Ferry, Iowa. 

With her family, Aida’s visited 311 national parks in seven years. She’s due to stop by Whitman Mission National Historic Site at about 11 a.m. on June 16, she emailed. 

Each park provides activity books anyone can fill out. When completed, the bearer can earn a badge or patch and certificate. There is an option to order the books online or by mail but her preference is to visit the site. Find out more at nps.gov/kids/jrRangers.cfm.

“At the time, I didn’t know much about national parks,” she said in an article by The Rock River Times in Rockford, Ill. “But, I looked at the book and got very interested in it. It’s much better to be there.” 

A large vest and sash she wears are heavily laden with her burgeoning collection of badges and pins.

Aida emailed she has been dubbed “The Sweetheart of the National Parks.” Her goal is to visit all 419 National Parks nationwide, to which her parents have said they will continue on her journey as far as she wishes to go. She said she may need to visit parks in Guam and Hawaii on her own as an adult.

She has traveled considerably and has been featured on countless radio shows and in magazines, newspaper articles, TV interviews and internet podcasts, she said. Count among those ABC Channel 7 Chicago News, Channel 6 in Michigan, Channel 9 WGN and ABC Channel 27 News from Harrisburg, Pa.  

Her first book, “America, Can I Have Your Autograph, The Story of Junior Ranger Aida Frey,” published in 2016, has been featured in the Eastern National Bookstores nationwide, which promotes the public’s support of America’s national parks and other public trust partners. 

These accomplishments have earned her an Algonquin School District 300 Blue Ribbon Society Award, presented to “individuals who demonstrate admirable qualities while striving to achieve District 300’s Central Mission;”  and the Illinois State Organization of Daughters of the American Revolution Founders Medal for Youth, both in 2017. The latter honor goes to an outstanding young person who exemplifies a positive role model status and volunteers time performing community service. 

Aida said she’s volunteered with the National Park Service at Effigy Mounds, Indiana Dunes National Park, Pullman National Monument and William Howard Taft and Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic sites and many other parks.

Shawn added that this summer’s trip agenda includes 22 national parks, at least two Bureau of Land Management/Forest Service areas and several state parks.  

“We constantly visit parks during the year if we can get time off from work ... (and) will visit more parks later this year,” he said.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313. 

Annie joined the U-B news staff in 1979 and since 1990 has written Etcetera, a daily community column. She was promoted to a copy editing post in 2007. She edits copy, designs and lays out pages, including the weekly arts and entertainment guide Marquee,

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