The youngest Emrey, Ashton, and his grandfather, on the Delaware. 

A family affair

Dean Emrey’s dad introduced him to the outdoors as a child, and when he first brought up the idea of participating in the Delaware River Sojourn—a roughly week-long guided river trip starting in the Poconos—Dean was hesitant. “Oh, it’s a sojourn, it’s a guided thing, do you really want to do that?” Dean remembered saying.

Dean Emrey, on the river.

Years later, Dean met Jennifer, who would become his wife, and invited her on the sojourn. She had the same reaction, and then she also came back year after year—so did her father. “The kids have no choice but to go back year after year,” Dean said, with a laugh. “[Joining the NCSP] just seemed a logical extension of what we were already doing.”

Every member of the Emrey family is a part of the NCSP. The youngest, 11-year-old Ashton, is working his way through training now. The family tries to make it up from their home in Lehighton, PA, every weekend in the summer. Fourteen-year-old Emma Emrey—the youngest member of the patrol for several years—wouldn’t have it any other way.

Emma Emrey, the youngest member of the NCSP. 

“I absolutely love learning new things from different people, and I love the environment,” she said. “If I’m alone peacefully floating down the river, I love the peacefulness.” Emrey became a qualified volunteer when she was nine. At 12, she was recognized by a state representative for coaching her brother Ashton through a car crash, despite having a fractured jaw herself. With the safety patrol, she remembers rescuing a boy who got separated from his grandfather and swept into the water near Skinner’s Falls.

“I’ve always just clicked with medical ingenuity... it’s common sense to me,” Emma, who is studying to become a ski patrol member as well, said.

As for the coming paddling season, “I’m excited to meet and reunite with my best friends again, and I’m just so excited for the sport,” Emma said. “I’m itching for it.” 


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