AH Trail

April’s Event

Andrew stared up at the miles, or so it seemed, of rope ladder as it twisted back and forth, reminding him of a strand of DNA he had seen in a science class video. The fear of leaving the ground was slowly spreading through his body, creating a form of mental-induced paralysis. He tried to overcome the terror of the height he needed to climb, but it seemed to be an effort in futility. Mother Earth had comforted him in her bosom his entire life and there seemed to be no logical reason why he should need to leave her.

The platform was thirty feet above him. It might as well have been thirty miles, for there was no way he was going to be able to even take the first step up the unstable ladder. The fact his team had safely made it around the high ropes course did not console him in the slightest. His coaches attempting to talk him through his fear really did not help his anxiety subside either. He couldn’t understand why it was so important for him to climb up to a bunch of obstacles hanging high over the ground. What purpose did it serve? Of course, it didn’t matter, since he had no desire of getting up there. He had been here once before and the results were the same, Andrew was not climbing the ladder or getting on the high ropes course.

Slowly a thought began to penetrate his cloud of doubt and fear. A soft voice whispered in his ear, “You can do this, I will be here the whole way.” The voice came from Coach Levi, the quiet, but strong mentor who suddenly became his biggest cheerleader. Coach had a way of putting things in their proper perspective and it began to make sense that trying this senseless act might actually serve a positive purpose, no matter how scared he was to try. Coach Levi helped him to understand that it was the path of the journey and not the destination that mattered. The effort to overcome the terror of that first step is what builds character, not whether or not you are the fastest one to go around the course. He told him that everybody experiences success differently. No matter what though, overcoming obstacles and fear are how people grow. Andrew decided that today, he was going to grow.

With Coach Levi at his side, Andrew slowly made his way to the base of the rope ladder and grabbed the rung with his right hand. Coach held the ladder as taut as he could to allow for minimal sway. As Andrew looked up to the base of the platform, a flood of terror rushed through him as if a dam had broken. The seed of doubt had grown into a forest of fear, but with the vocal support of his team and coaches, Andrew took the most important step of his life; he climbed the first rung of the ladder. He methodically climbed a few more rungs. As he reached the midpoint, it was obvious to those on the ground the fear was still haunting. Undaunted, he continued until he reached the platform.

Andrew had done it! He had passed the first challenge and made it to the starter platform and his harness was clipped to the safety wires. Standing at the edge, Andrew fearfully looked at the course ahead with Coach Levi, who calmly spoke to build his confidence. Several times it looked as if Andrew was going to take that first step onto the rope swing. It was not to be on this day; Andrew decided it was too much and needed to get back to the ground. We clipped him to the rope and he was belayed back down.

Andrew was overcome with a feeling of failure and it showed on his face. I approached him, put my arm around him and explained how proud I was of him. Andrew looked up with surprise in his eyes. I described that he had gone much further than he had the first time he had tried a ropes course. The first time, he didn’t leave the ground. This time, he had made it to the platform; Andrew had taken a huge step closer to overcoming his fear. I also explained that he should remember he has many talents and gifts, a brilliant musician being one of them. Many people, including me, would love to have that type of talent. Andrew smiled and understood what I was telling him. We all have different challenges and fears that keep us from succeeding, but when we confront them head-on we can overcome them and grow.

All-in-all it was a great day for all of the campers. They were able to focus on their teambuilding skills and their communication with one another, whether on the ropes, working together on their catapult launchers, or competing on the paintball course against one another. As a coach, I was proud to see how the critical thinking and communication skills have improved over the past few months. We had a great time together and look forward to our next adventure.

To view the photo gallery from this Adventure click here!

March Event

It had been a long, trudging hike to an old abandoned homesteader house in the hills of Cambridge, ID. The winter snow had been relegated to small, slushy patches in areas shaded by the brush and trees. The ground was sloppy with mud from the melting snow, providing us with minimal traction and heavy boots from each plodding step up the mountain. A couple of our campers had not quite understood the value of proper planning and preparation, as they were wearing running shoes, instead of bringing their hiking boots. Their cold, wet feet were certainly robbing them of the joy of being out on a beautiful day in the middle of nature.

We arrived at our destination and took some time to investigate the old house. It had been built in the 1930’s and was in a complete state of dilapidation. Debris was strewn about the outside yard and it was obvious that we were not the only people to have ventured to the site in recent times. It was a great opportunity to explore some history.

I entered the house from the back in order to make sure there were no surprises waiting inside for our campers. Determining no dangerous creatures were lurking about, the house was once again host to human beings. We had a great time exploring the kitchen and rooms of the lower level. I then went to investigate the upstairs by accessing the narrow staircase hidden by a closed door. The creaking of the old steps reminded one of a classic horror film where the eventual victim was climbing toward their demise.

The upper level had been exposed to the elements from multiple large holes in the roof. The flooring was stable around the beams, but several broken floor boards revealing the level below, showed there was potential for hazard. Unfortunately, one of our campers discovered this before I gave the ‘all clear’.

In her excitement to explore, she ventured into a small room off of the staircase and fell through the floor. Hearing her screams of pain downstairs, I rushed to find the rest of the team surrounding her as she lay in a heap of debris clutching her lower right leg. I could also see blood spreading around her upper thigh. She had broken her fibula in the fall and had opened a large gash in her leg as she was falling through the broken floorboards.

Time had suddenly become a critical factor as the late afternoon sun began to descend toward the back of the mountains. We needed to stop the bleeding and decide if we were going to send for help and wait at the house, or if we should try to stabilize her and bring her down to our basecamp where we could transport her to the nearest medical facility. Fortunately, our campers had just been trained that morning in wilderness first aid. They had also received some training in search and rescue tactics. After the initial shock of the event, they knew what to do. They had been taught about the types of items that should be loaded in a backpack any time they went on a hike. They also had been instructed on how to utilize anything they could find in their surroundings to aid in survival or rescue.

Our team immediately, and carefully, placed their injured teammate in a position allowing them to administer first aid. One of our campers placed pressure on the gash to try and stop the bleeding. When that failed, she left the original pad on the wound and placed another one on top, as she had been earlier instructed, and determined they would need a tourniquet to slow the bleeding. Utilizing one of the triangular slings from the pack, they wrapped her leg and tightened the tourniquet by twisting the ends of the wrap with a pen to slow the bleeding. Next it was time to splint the leg. Using two old pieces of board, they placed the pieces on either side of her leg and secured them with the couple feet of heavy tape which had been wrapped around an old credit card. They had been taught this technique earlier when we showed them critical items to pack in a backpack for emergencies.

Deciding that their teammate was stable enough to transport her to camp, they began to discuss how they would get her down the mountain. At first, they were going to try and use an old piece of tin roofing as a sled to pull her down, pulling her with a roll of cord from their pack. Realizing the multiple dangers of added injury to their teammate and possibly themselves should the sled get away from them, they chose a different manner of transportation. They elected to carry her down in a C-carry, or fireman’s carry. Each of the three members of the team would rotate jobs. One teammate would carry the victim on their shoulders, one would walk alongside providing support in case of slipping or difficult terrain and one would lead the team by clearing the way and carrying the pack. With their plan in place, they began their trek down the mountain.

The going was slow and difficult. Fighting soft footing, intermittent snow patches and soggy feet, each camper carried their teammate as far as they could before they transferred her to their partner. Each of the three campers were of different size and strength. They had different skill sets and came from different backgrounds, yet there was no complaining or arguing about one not carrying her as far as they had. They supported each other and knew their teammates were giving it their all with every turn they took carrying their wounded friend.

After traversing cold mountain streams, snow covered ditches, slick hillsides and unstable patches of loose rock, the intrepid team achieved their goal and returned their injured teammate to the safety of our basecamp.

Fortunately, the previous adventure was only an exercise. The fall and the injury were just a scenario we gave our team. They did have to prepare her and transport her as if it were real, however. Our focus centered on two of AH’s 6 C’s of Leadership; Communication and Critical Thinking, both of which our campers succeeded in utilizing extremely well. They used the training our Search and Rescue Instructor and our Wilderness First Aid expert had provided them earlier in the day to effectively carry out the task at hand.

After the exercise was over, we reflected on how working together and using our critical thinking skills can aid us in overcoming the most difficult obstacles. We discussed the importance of planning and preparation when it comes to finding success in our endeavors. Our campers understand that when life is presenting them a challenge, they need to take a moment to accept the situation for what it is and, instead of throwing up their hands and quitting, they need to think about how they can prepare themselves to successfully navigate their way to their basecamp, whether that is a physical, or mental place.

The next challenge for this team will be to instruct the rest of the campers on our next adventure. We are excited to see how they take their personal experience and use it to lead and teach the others. We can’t wait!

To view the photo gallery from this Adventure click here!

February Event

Imagine a child lost in a dense mountain wilderness. They look up to see dark, swirling clouds forming overhead hiding the once blue sky. The sound of thunder can be heard in the distance, but the clamor is getting louder each time it erupts. The child cringes with each bolt of lightning. They are scared and unsure of what to do. They have no survival skills, no equipment and no compass to point them in the direction of safety.
The oncoming storm is about to engulf them. The air is beginning to chill and the rain starts to fall. What was once a gentle breeze has rapidly become a seething tempest of wind and water that is causing tremendous pain as it pelts the child with vengeful ferocity.  Paralyzed by fear and a lack of skills, the child doesn’t know what they should do, or where they should go. It’s not their fault, no one ever taught them any kind of survival skills, or provided them equipment which would give them a decent chance of surviving and succeeding on their journey. It is highly probable this child will never escape from the dense wilderness they are lost in.

Hundreds of thousands of American kids are ‘lost’ in this same wilderness. They are all alone and afraid. Many may not outwardly admit to it, but they are afraid. These are kids who come from various circumstances and backgrounds, but they are all devoid of the essential things a child needs to grow into a successful, contributing citizen. They are lacking the nurturing, support and guidance that loving, devoted, and involved parents provide. Unfortunately, there is an ever-growing percentage of parents who have abdicated their responsibilities and have turned the parenting of their children over to others.

Many of these parents expect the schools to raise their children for them. Schools and teachers are overwhelmed as it is with the pressure of high stakes testing, unfunded mandates and a growing population of apathetic students. They do not have the time, or the wherewithal to have to provide all of the life skills and character development parents should have provided their kids when they were growing up.

As a result, more and more kids are making their way to adulthood without the coping skills and work ethic to overcome the obstacles life will throw at them. Many will become incarcerated, or need to rely on the government to take care of them financially. This is the reason communities must come together and provide the moral compass and support these kids need and crave. Whether we like it or not, the numbers are exponentially increasing of children from dysfunctional homes who are journeying deeper into the dense wilderness. 

January Event

Imagine you are looking up a wall with nothing but small outcroppings designed for the sole purpose of climbing to the top and ringing a bell. You are fitted with a safety harness and you will have a rope attached, but the problem is, you are deathly afraid of heights.

This was the scenario many of our campers faced this past Saturday at the YMCA in Caldwell, ID. They were tasked with the physical and mental challenge of scaling the indoor climbing wall there. The fear of heights added to the challenge for a few of the campers. Fortunately, we were able to apply the lessons of the previous 5 months and the classroom session we had earlier in the day to help their willingness to take on their fear.

The day began with a lesson which focused on the comparison between rock/mountain climbing and real life. We talked about the importance of persevering through difficult elements and terrain in order to reach your destination. We also discussed how we need to surround ourselves with a trusted group of competent people. Coach Levi gave our team tremendous real-life correlations with mountain climbing. We challenged our campers to challenge themselves and understand that a lack of success is not a failure, as long as you continue to work hard and keep trying. Those who play it safe tend to live in the suburbs of mediocrity, so we invited our campers to embrace life’s challenges, even if they are not successful the first time around.

The classroom lesson translated beautifully into the physical challenge. In preparation for the day, we had sent a few members of our team earlier in the week to get their Belay Certification. For those of you not familiar with climbing, the belay is the individual who stays on the ground and keeps the slack out of your rope; preventing you from falling should you and the wall become separated, or for when you are ready to descend. Their job is to gently lower you to the ground.

One of our campers, in particular, was an excellent belay. He modeled another lesson we had covered in an earlier camp about the way in which successful leaders place people in positions according to their strengths. This young man had some physical difficulties keeping him from climbing, but he knew he could be a dependable belay for his teammates. True to his word, he was an amazing belay, who kept his teammates (and his coach) as safe as could be on their descent from their climb.

I was equally proud of our campers who overcame their fears and made the climb. The combination of fear, exhaustion, relief and elation were evident on their faces during various phases of their climbs. Most importantly they understood that, although they did not lose their fear, they overcame it and succeeded in their goal.

Of course, nothing was more memorable than the ‘Challenge Climb’. This was where one is blindfolded and must rely on the belay to direct their hands and feet as they ascend the wall. What made this so memorable, was the camper who volunteered probably suffered from the greatest fear of heights over anyone else on our team. His reasoning for volunteering was that he figured if he couldn’t see, the fear wouldn’t be as great. Not only did he succeed in the climb, he tried again on the most difficult rock face. Although he did not get up that wall, he was more than successful in the endeavor for trying it at all.

After a great lunch, we went back to Weiser and started two service projects. One team went to the city pond and cleaned up in preparation for community fishing in a month or so. Another team began painting the new sign for the Lions Club Recycling Center, which badly needed to be replaced.

All in all it was a phenomenal day. I can’t believe in two weeks, we will be breaking for snow camp in Council, ID.

December 2013

The holiday season is a time for connecting and sharing with family and friends. It is a time for reminding ourselves of what is important in our lives. It is also a wonderful time to reach into our humanity and give the gift of service, or financial assistance to those who are in need. The holidays provide an opportunity to reflect upon the previous year, assess our present and plan for our future with renewed optimism and excitement.

As I watched my children open their Christmas presents, I began to think about the best gift I was given this year. With apologies to my wife and kids, who gave me some very loving presents, I was most touched by the gift given to me by a couple of our campers after our service project was completed.

We brought some of our campers back to the Greenhouse recreation center and ordered some pizza. While we waited, we played games and took some time to talk and reflect on the past several months. We asked our campers to write down their thoughts about where they were when they started attending ARROW-HEART Adventure Camps, where they felt they were currently and where they wanted to be as citizens and leaders. After some time, we asked if any of them wanted to share their thoughts. I could not have imagined the emotions I felt after listening to some of their comments.

They mentioned how they had never imagined spending fun, quality time with caring adults; especially teachers, a school administrator and law enforcement officers. They learned that the reputations they had ‘earned’ with their previous behavior was not something they were stuck with and how the 6 C’s of Leadership were helping them improve their lives. What humbled me most; however, was the comment from one of our campers about the impact I had on his life. I was truly honored and touched by his words; they have inspired me and I will always appreciate them.

We have big events and big challenges planned for our campers in 2014 and I know the ARROW-HEART team is excited and ready. Have a wonderful and rewarding new year.