Growing up I had the opportunity to spend time immersing myself in outdoor
activities. We were a boating family and most warm weather weekends were spent on the lake skiing, fishing, or just floating. My dad and I would attend the boat show every year dreaming of the next boat. For a few years, we headed up to Michigan and vacationed at a little cabin resort where we would spend our time on the water fishing. I still love the water whether I’m canoeing on a river or hiking along a stream, it is where I am most at peace. We would also take the occasional family vacation away from the water. One year we trekked up the east coast through Maine, Canada, and back through Michigan. While in Boston, I saw my first sign of homelessness as we walked through Boston Common Park. My first
National Park was Smokey Mountain National Park where we saw wildlife I had only seen in a zoo, like bears and elk. We also visited Rocky Mountain National Park where I was in awe of the immensity of the mountains. As a Boy Scout, I bike camped through Shenandoah National Park. I remember riding one morning not being able to see two feet in front of me through the fog. All of these experiences have helped form who I would eventually become as an adult.
When Cynthia and I started our family, we wanted our children to have these types of experiences. We wanted them to see that the world was a lot bigger than, and in many cases very different from Zionsville, Indiana. We started camping when they were very young, with a couple of our family favorites being the Smokey Mountains and Pisgah National Forest. But even with our nest now empty, Cynthia and I continue these adventures. This month we did a two-week tour of the Southwest National Parks, where I achieved a couple of milestones. I visited New Mexico – my 50th state, and I have now visited 33 of our 59 National Parks. During the two weeks, we visited Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Petrified Forest, Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyon Lands, and also Grand Staircase and Lake Powell. As we were hiking through the Blue Mesa in Petrified National Park, I was thinking about kids that don’t get these kinds of experiences. The kids that live in the city and their world is just two blocks around their home. The kids whose families do not or cannot go on these types of trips. Wilderness experiences have a profound impact on us. It might be the vastness of Death Valley, the majesty of the Rocky or Sierra Mountains, or the almost prehistoric splendor of the geysers, mud pots, and hot springs of Yellowstone. It might be what we learn through our adversities in nature; getting stuck in a hailstorm, hiking in 1000 temperatures in the dessert, climbing 7,000 feet to a summit, or enduring below freezing nights. Camptown brings these types of experiences to the kids we serve.
During our 7th Grade overnight trip to Shades State Park this year, the Principal came out to address the class. These students come from a school where 90% of the students are inner city and living in poverty. During her conversation with them, she talked about the value of experiences like this one. How many of those they meet in college or other post high school training will have had these experiences and how it was important for them to have the same type of opportunities to expand their worldview. These wilderness adventures teach us and help us to grow and expand our way of thinking in a way that a classroom cannot. If they wanted to compete, they needed these experiences and needed to take full advantage of them. Through our day, overnight, and weeklong programs, Camptown is able to provide these life changing experiences to more than 3,000 youth who normally would not have the opportunity to do so. Finding the resources to provide these programs is becoming increasingly more difficult. Please consider providing a life changing experience to a local youth by supporting
For more information on how you can help, please visit our webpage at www.camptown.net.