In late June, the work of The Foundation reached a new level of engagement, seeing visions we have had since we began come to life.
Our desire to introduce youth from North Louisiana to Ross’s community in Bozeman, Montana, through a program that nurtures positive holistic living became a reality.
One Great River (OGR) and the Renzi Education and Art Center of Shreveport joined with us in taking a select group of six Louisiana high school youth to Montana for an outdoor adventure leadership program.
This week-long out-of-context program opened doors for the students to consider a wider world of possibilities for their futures. One had never flown before, others had never ventured beyond the Shreveport area, and none had ever climbed rock face mountain spires.
The week’s leadership included scientists, athletes, juvenile justice professionals, naturalists, substance abuse awareness experts, health and nutrition specialists, educators, artists, spiritual leaders, and community agencies dedicated to the development and holistic formation of the lives of individuals. Each team leader and guide focused on helping these six students reach their full potential. This kind of sustained attention and energy combined with healthy risk-taking and physical challenges created a perfect setting for positive growth and learning, strengthening resiliency, and cultivating compassion and empathy.
The students arrived in Bozeman after several months of qualifying work, participating in activities as a part of the Health Trekker Challenge conducted by One Great River. Each day the agenda included activities such as rock climbing, fly fishing, hiking, leadership training, artistic expression, self-reflection, and community service.
Unlike prior OGR capstone treks, this trip’s destination and the adventure guides engaged grew out of the life and legacy of Ross Lynn. Through Ross’ friends and mentors, the students witnessed first-hand professionals with a sense of place, making life choices that invite and nurture life-long healthy living and the desire to give back.
The days spent rock climbing were under the direction of Montana Alpine Guides owner Sam Magro. Other alpinists joining our MAG guides were Whitt Magro and Tim and Katie Seipel, Montana friends of The Foundation. Particularly meaningful was the time spent with world-renown alpinist, mountaineer, and climber Conrad Anker, with whom Ross shared a rope often. As students geared up, the reality that Anker would serve as one of their tutors, helping to belay them on their climbs, began to sink in—especially after they were told that learning to climb under his direction was akin to learning how to pass a football from Drew Brees. Each student climbed multiple routes, honing their skills while problem solving, gaining confidence, and learning how to work with their physical strengths and weaknesses to climb and rappel sheer rock cliffs.
The fly-fishing experience was not just about the rhythm of the sport. Alpinist and fishing guide Adam Knoff and a team from our growing Montana community had our students knee-deep wading in a clear mountain river while learning the early history of the Native American territory.
While we hoped and expected the students and leaders would gain immeasurably from the experience, what was unforeseen was the impact on and gift of response of from the Montana community. The experience was meaningful in both directions, connecting the participants in a way that is knitting the two communities closer together and bringing our vision full circle. The invitations, connections, and open doors are full of future possibilities for our mission and shared vision. What became clear through this adventure is that we have embarked on a long-term body of work that will serve both communities for many years to come…that will be another story for another day. For now, we are incredibly grateful and in awe of what can be happen when visionaries with a common purpose join together serving the greater good.
This type of work is never possible without those who support us and our partner organizations. Many stepped forward to help fund this project, while others gave of their time and talents. All came together, and lives were changed forever.
Take a look at these image from the Trek: