CNN films LDS youth during trek

"These kids are learning the real meaning of the sacrifice their ancestors made," said Betty Anderson, a producer for the Cable News Network (CNN), of 200 youth in the Murrieta California Stake.

Ms. Anderson had traveled 130 miles from Los Angeles to Murrieta with her television crew to film the youth in a re-enactment of a pioneer trek. During the recent three-day journey, the youth pulled 16 handcarts across rough terrain in Riverside County in commemoration of the sesquicentennial.The youth, dressed in pioneer outfits, were assembling their wagons when the television crew arrived. The handcarts, which were borrowed from stakes in Nevada and Arizona, had arrived unassembled.

The trek also included covered wagons and horseback riders. Equipment included bows and arrows for archery training, and replicas of American Indian tomahawks. Wooden handmade rifles were taken along for a re-enactment of the mustering of the Mormon Battalion along the trail. It was estimated that each wagon weighed 900 pounds when loaded.

The trek began at "Winter Quarters" in Aguanga, Calif., near Murrieta and ended 12 miles later at Vail Lake.

Press releases had been sent to the local media several weeks prior to the event. These were followed by telephone calls. A release was sent to the Cable News Network, even though it was felt that CNN was not likely to travel such a distance from Los Angeles to cover a local story.

However, CNN assignment editor Joy Hollowel called the day before the trek with the news that producer Betty Anderson and her crew would cover the story. Maps detailing the location of the first encampment were sent because it was in Riverside back country and rather difficult to find.

There was a great deal of excitement in the camp when the crew arrived. The youth crowded around the cameras, eager to be filmed. The crew interviewed the youth as they gathered in their "family groups" with a "Ma and Pa." The producer was eager to film the replica grave sites along the trail which had been erected to give the youth a sense of the tragedy that beset the pioneers as they trekked across America.

It was difficult for the cameramen carrying their heavy cameras and equipment as they followed the wagons. When the group came to a sharp incline with a 200-foot drop, some of the wagons had to be lowered by ropes. The cameramen ran up and down the hill as they filmed the youth struggling to keep the wagons upright.

"They were out of breath and sweating like the rest of us," said Tom Paulson of the Rancho California Ward, who acted as trail boss.

When Joy Hollowel was asked why she had decided to cover the event, she said: "This is a unique event. It is refreshing to see 200 youth so dedicated and willing to give up their precious weekend time to commemorate the courage of their ancestors in this way. Youth are in such trouble today. This is a positive story."

The story ran repeatedly in April on CNN's Headline News.

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