THE SHUTTLESWORTH SENTINEL
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A LITERAL ESCAPE FROM LIFE’S PROBLEMS WHAT BEING IN THE WILDERNESS DOES FOR DISADVANTAGED KIDS
What is a dream or goal that you would make a reality if money were no object? I think it’s a question a lot of us have asked ourselves. It’s easy to consider what we would do or get for ourselves at first. Most of you know I’m a huge fan of outdoor adventures. So camping, backpacking, mountaineering, kayaking, and sailing are where my mind goes first when I think about what I would do if money were no object. The truth is, though, I don’t really need bigger this or a better that. Spending time outdoors makes me happy, and I would want to share that joy with others. I think if money were no object, I would set up some sort of program that gives disadvantaged youths from poor or broken homes the opportunity to go on outdoor adventures. This isn’t a new concept by any means, but it’s something I know can make a world of difference in a kid’s life, especially if they’re coming from a broken home. It’s a way to get out of a dysfunctional environment and see some of the beauty in the world. “IF THAT’S ALL THEY’VE EVER KNOWN, IMAGINE HOW THEY WOULD FEEL WHEN THEY SAW THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS FOR THE FIRST TIME OR FELT THE SPRAY OFF THE BOW OF A BOAT IN THE CARIBBEAN.” I grew up in a broken home as a kid where it was kind of “every man for himself.” I ended up moving out when I was 16 just because I didn’t have a better option. But growing up, I had a friend named Joel who lived across the street. Joel’s family always welcomed me into their house when I didn’t want to be at home, and it honestly feels like I was over there more than I was at my own house.
hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park,
he saw a guy cutting down a tree — a big no-no in national parks. This riled up Joel’s father so much that he followed the guy for three days until they came to his car, and he got his license plate information so he could identify him to the park rangers.
Anyway, fast forward six months, and Joel’s father had agreed to testify against this guy in court in North Carolina. Since he was already going to be there, he decided to make a backpacking trip out of it, and he took me and Joel along. I was 12 years old, and it was my first outdoors experience. In short, I loved it. We hiked for 3–4 days until we were the only people for miles, surrounded by pristine, untouched wilderness. It was well worth traversing miles of trails, gaining 3,000 feet in elevation and carrying 50 pounds on my back. Seeing that place, breathing that air, and feeling that freedom all gave me hope there was something beyond my life at home. That’s the kind of hope I would love to give kids who, for whatever reason, aren’t given the opportunity to experience the beauty and grandeur of the natural world. If that’s all they’ve ever known, imagine how they would feel when they saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time or felt the spray off the bow of a boat in the Caribbean. Being out in nature can literally transport you away from life’s difficulties and show you there’s still some beauty in the world. Spending time outdoors made a huge impact in my life, and I think it can make a difference in other kids’ lives, too.
Joel’s father was a major outdoors enthusiast who cared deeply about preserving the natural beauty of the environment. One time while he was
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