We were doing some admin for next years competition when we looked at the first name signed up to the 2014 Patchwork Challenge. Cameron Bespolka. Cameron was one of our youngest competitors in the first year and he had signed up his patch, St. Catherine's Hill in Winchester, with the eagerness that had been present throughout the 2013 edition. Cameron was one of the most regular contributors on Facebook and was always willing to share his recent patching experiences or give an opinion on a thread as he led a vanguard of Next Generation Birders into Patchwork Challenge. It was with great sadness and a real sense of loss that we learnt of Cameron's fatal skiing accident in Austria mid month and our thoughts remain with his family at this extremely difficult time.
When we received the news we were readying an announcement of a Patchwork Challenge Next Gen Birders minileague and some cross promotion to try and get more birders like Cameron involved with PWC. We were going to highlight how Cameron's participation had been positive for both parties. Obviously we decided to postpone the announcement and during a period of reflection and in the spirit of collaboration we wanted to celebrate Cameron's enthusiasm for both PWC and Next Gen Birders. Jointly we have decided to dedicate the minileague to Cameron's memory and the leading patchworker in the Under 25's minileague will win the Cameron Bespolka Prize. We hope this to be an ongoing prize to honour Cameron in the longer term whilst encouraging patch watching in young birders cutting their teeth.
Further to this here at PWC also wanted to mark Cameron's passing with a community event and as such we hope to have a combined Patchwork Challenge/Birdtrack Bird Race in the future. The format of this is still very much in the ideas stage so we hope to progress this in the New Year.
The reaction on Twitter and Facebook to the tragic events highlighted the community spirit within Patchwork Challenge and the wider birding community and I am sure that you will join with me in a quiet moment over the festive season to spare a thought for Cameron and his family.