How does the value of crew show up in philanthropy? In the fall of 2018, we received a phone call from the family of Eric Ross. On September 9th, Eric suddenly and tragically passed away at the age of 49 from cardiac arrest after a mountain bike ride. The Ross family was searching for the right non-profit partner to elevate Eric’s legacy to live on through life-changing, outdoor opportunities for young people. Though they hadn’t experienced Outward Bound firsthand, friends and colleagues recommended our programs as being highly aligned with Eric’s love of natural places and his spirit of adventure.
The Ross family worked with us to determine that an Endowment Scholarship Fund for our Grieving Teen’s program would create the impact they were hoping to achieve. An Endowment Scholarship Fund continues to grow under the organization’s management, with annual distributed funds used to send young people on Outward Bound courses, year after year. This funding model provides an opportunity for a donor to create lasting impact years into the future.
Outward Bound Grieving Teens: A Journey Into Healing
Like all Outward Bound courses, Grieving Teens courses build an inclusive and supportive crew. On day one, they join in a nightly discussion circle, acknowledge their shared losses and begin the healing process. As they tackle problem-solving challenges and engage in high-impact activities such as rock climbing or ropes courses, students experience moments of self-discovery and also reinforce their new community of support—their grieving crewmates. Students are encouraged to share their stories and insights on a daily basis as they participate in meaningful grief rituals. Grief-centered reflection activities help them understand how their experiences translate to coping skills back home. During the final debrief, students identify continued, healthy support mechanisms and a positive network of peers who they may call on in the future.
Crew, Not Passengers: A Model On and Off Course
While the focus on crew is fundamental in all of our programs, a Grieving Teens crew becomes a support model that honors the griever and can become the single most powerful tool for a young person experiencing pain and loss. The focus on crew was also critical in the fundraising efforts that the Ross family undertook to ensure that Eric’s legacy creates a lasting impact. The family sent emails, created a Facebook fundraising page and used every opportunity to share the Endowment plan with their friends and family.
All the family asked for was a contribution—of any size—to help the memorial Endowment become a reality. “Since Eric’s tragic passing,” the family wrote on their fundraising page, “his friends and family haven’t only been forced to think about how Eric changed their lives, but how we can extend ourselves in the same way he did to help and improve the lives of others.” The fund received donations on a daily basis with gifts starting at just $10. Friends, co-workers, family members and loved ones contributed what they could, assembling a crew that propelled the Ross family’s idea into action.
As of April 2019, the Endowment has raised over $88,000 dollars—and counting—which is nearly double the original goal of the fund. We are tremendously grateful to the family, friends and colleagues of Eric Ross, who demonstrate the power of coming together and have channeled grief into resilience to create meaningful change for young people who may encounter the kind of loss, grief and pain that the Ross family experienced. We also extend a very special thanks and continued support to Harrison and Jen Ross, Kara and Larry Moskowitz, Todd Greenberg and the entire Ross family.
Larry recently shared, “We as a family just passed six months of our loss and hope to continue the wishes we believe Eric Ross would want: ‘be happy and make sure the kids get to be kids.” As we prepare to send our first Endowment Scholarship Fund recipients on their Grieving Teens journey, we know the transformative opportunity the Ross family is providing will be felt well beyond a course, and we are fortunate to have the Ross family in our crew.
If you would like to learn more about our Grieving Teens Programs, Endowed Scholarship Funds, or if you are an alum of a Grieving Teens course and would like to share your story, please contact Laurel Crosby Burghoffer ([email protected]).
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