Sharing outdoor mountain life can be life changing for troubled youth. campCARE places kids in a natural environment where the rules are different. Age, ethnicity, gender and personal appearance and lifestyle count for very little in an outdoor program. Outdoors, external measures of success so common in our everyday lives matter much less than the more central qualities of integrity, compassion, and a strong sense of self-worth.

Learning a new sport presents unequaled opportunities for new insights into relationships. It is about the growth and development adults constantly encourage. There are obvious benefits to just getting kids outside and off the couch, not the least of which is having plain fun and showing them how to appreciate the outdoors. Teaching children about the world around them is particularly valuable since kids need to value the environment and its protection.

Respect Camps is a wonderful opportunity for groups to get to know each other on a deeper level and work together with a focus on improving communication and cooperation skills. Mentors become better instructors. Students become better students and happier kids. Quite often it’s the kid who’s never distinguished him or herself, academically or socially, who shows great leadership outdoors or is the most comfortable in a strange new environment.

We've witnessed snowboarding providing troubled youth with an optimal opportunity to embark on an adventure in learning by experience. A willingness to challenge oneself physically and emotionally are integral components of outdoor programs that enhance self-reliance, confidence, self-esteem, and communication skills. Kids have fun, build a core support group of friends, take responsibility, and transfer their newly acquired skills and ideas to their school, home and community. And, of course, there is still time for leadership, substance abuse and violence prevention workshops, as well as journal writing, art and group discussions.

The campCARE snowboard program extends an opportunity for a wealth of powerful experiences. Needy youth challenge themselves and help each other on and off the slopes. On the trail and around the lunch table, people become friends with each other and they come to feel at home in the friendly mountain community. These experiences become a strong force in their lives. This process of discovery and growth leads to an increased sense of self-worth and to an expanded capacity for compassion, community spirit, and enjoyment of the outdoors.

If a program's goal is to truly turn a disadvantaged child’s life around, it must reach out to the whole child, mind, body and spirit. What better place exists for accomplishing this goal than a pristine mountain peak?

Heidi Landau on “Experiential Education”
Founder | CEO
campCARE Children’s Foundation
January 2009