What does it mean to be a “trail breaker?” For anyone who’s completed an Outward Bound course, it means facing challenges head-on, stepping into roles of leadership, digging deep and cultivating newfound resilience. Last month, we were joined by more than 200 friends of Outward Bound who helped us raise nearly $500,000 in support of the journeys of trail breakers across the country.
Outward Bound’s 2017 National Benefit Dinner celebrated accomplishments from Outward Bound alumni whose lives have spanned geography and generations. The evening’s host, Nettie Pardue, the Director of Education and Safety for Outward Bound California, began the night by welcoming to the stage Outward Bound USA’s first female Chair of the Board of Directors, Laura Kohler. Laura described how Outward Bound provides individuals with the opportunity to build the strength it takes to break new trails.
The evening’s next trail breakers were Lee and Peg Skold, who became the first couple to jointly accept the Kurt Hahn Award for outstanding service to Outward Bound’s mission of changing lives through challenge and discovery. Lee is currently on the Board of Directors for OBUSA, and both he and Peg have provided leadership and tremendous support to Outward Bound at both the national and regional level at the Voyager Outward Bound School in Minnesota.
Kenja Griffin was announced as the recipient of the 2017 Josh Miner Award, which honors Outward Bound employees who exemplify the qualities and character of our Founding Trustee, Joshua L. Miner III. Kenja has epitomized service and compassion for more than twenty years, across at least a dozen Outward Bound basecamps. He has imparted wisdom to thousands of students and mentored hundreds of Instructors.
Throughout the dinner, guests met three trail breaking Outward Bound women; explorer and author Kate Harris, Outward Bound New York City student Jennifer Lopez, and long-time Outward Bound advocate Patricia Francy.
The event’s featured speaker, Kate Harris, has been named one of Canada’s greatest modern-day explorers, whose award-winning nature and travel writing has been cited in “Best American Essays” and “Best American Travel Writing.” Her debut book, a travel memoir about cycling the Silk Road called “Lands of Lost Borders,” will be published later this year. In her talk, Kate described how her Outward Bound course in Utah taught her about the true meaning of exploration, adventure and survival – what it takes to Break New Trails.
When the Morehead-Cain Foundation offered Kate a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she accepted it over the phone “without hesitation.” It came with a travel stipend that funded a month-long Outward Bound course. The course included a three-day solo. On Outward Bound, Kate learned how to slog up mountains and trek across deserts carrying a fifty-pound backpack crammed with all she needed for survival – mainly canned beans, iodine tablets and blister kits. “It was torture,” she said. But it was also “sublime, everything she’d ever wanted.”
Kate noted that if she had to sum up what all her travels taught, she would think back to something she first understood while on her Outward Bound course, and then went halfway around the world on a bicycle to confirm: “Exploration isn’t about planting flags and leaving footprints. It isn’t about how far you can go, how much you can suffer. It’s about how willing you are to let an experience rewrite your maps.”
“Outward Bound,” Kate said, “provides exactly that shift in perspective. It is an invitation to getting lost, in the best possible sense. Only when we step away from the familiar can we truly discover who, and where, we are: explorers, every one of us, on a world that will never be fully mapped.”
When young women and men step outside of their comfort zones and accept transformation through challenge and discovery, trail breakers are made. Thousands of Outward Bound students who receive scholarships are able to break new trails thanks to the support of those who believe in Outward Bound. Jennifer Lopez, a student at WHEELS, the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in NYC, is one of these individuals. At the dinner, Jennifer described her initial sense of isolation when she spent two weeks backpacking and whitewater canoeing on an Outward Bound course in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Jennifer was one of only two Hispanics in the group, one of the few girls, and the only student that received a scholarship.
But, ultimately, the long hiking days ended in celebration, and Jennifer was able to create a bond with both her crew members and her counselors. She said that those two weeks became the best of her life. Or, as she put it, “I was able to become friends with people I never imagined to be friends with, grow as a leader and challenge myself physically all through an opportunity I never thought I would have.”
After Jennifer spoke, the evening’s honoree, Patricia L. Francy, was recognized for her extraordinary contributions to Outward Bound, along with the introduction of a new scholarship in her name, made possible by support from the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation. The funds will provide even more young women with opportunities to experience their own Outward Bound adventure and to break their own new trails.
We hope you’ll consider joining these trail breakers by making a donation today.
And, be sure to check out our photo gallery on the Outward Bound Facebook page. For those of you who attended, feel free to tag yourself and your friends in any photos you see!
Thank you to everyone who made this event – and the accomplishments of these incredible women – possible.
OTHER POSTS YOU MAY LIKE