My life and my work are inextricably tied together. You might call it passion. You might call it Call. You might call it love. You might just call it my life.
Whatever you call it, I sacrifice a lot of tears, sweat and blood to my paddling. Don't mis-understand me - I love it. And I work hard at it. In the fall of 2015 I became the seventh woman in the country and the second in the Midwest to earn a BCU 5 Star Award. I had to travel to a lot of paddling destinations outside of the Midwest in order to prepare; and I got to paddle in Scotland to assess.
I sacrifice maybe even more tears, sweat and blood for Chicago Adventure Therapy. The opportunities and experiences I've had as I pursue my own paddling goals have been amazing. They hold up a mirror for me - a mirror of my greatest fears and insecurities; and a mirror that, if I look steadily enough, also shows me strengths and skill that are mine forever. I've gotten to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, and to paddle waters that have changed my soul.
Every time I paddle somewhere new or grow my own skills so I can paddle new waters, I think about how to make the same thing accessible for the young people we introduce to the outdoors through CAT. It's a daunting project - when we're honest, we know that usually when we talk about "opportunities" for "under-served" young people in the outdoors, we're talking about "One and Done" intro programs. But after my first 5 Star training in San Francisco Bay, I learned that when we have mountain top experiences, they hold up a mirror to our best selves, and require that when we come down off that mountain we harness everything we've got in order to be that best self. For me, part of what the mountain requires is opening real opportunity for the young people we work with.
A year after that training, I took two CAT participants to San Francisco Bay, where they got to paddle with and learn from some of the best coaches in the world. It was there that I realized forcefully that we should not think of our young people as "at-risk" or "under-served" youth, but rather as powerful agents for change. They are so much more than young people in need of our help. They are people who, when taken to the mountain top, will have their own mirror held up for them. They may find fear and uncertainty. They may find anger or resentment. They will also find their very best self, and it will require that they harness everything they've got in order to be that best self. The mountain requires just as much from our young people as it does from any of us - and our young people at their best are a force to be reckoned with.
To get to the mountain top, we have to offer real challenge. We cannot offer experience that comes with the guarantee of success and expect that it will be transformative. We must offer real challenge, and then offer every support we can so that our young people can successfully meet the challenge.
And so, as I prepare to go back to Scotland to assess for my next Coaching Award, I want to take a group of CAT youth with me. I have to take long-term students - students I've been coaching for at least a year. I want that group to be a CAT group. Because the only thing that keeps the mountain at bay for them is opportunity.
The group of paddlers who want to go with me have worked hard, and they are quite talented. The day after my assessment, they will have their own assessment. For those of you familiar with sea kayaking awards - two of them will assess their British Canoeing Three Star Awards. (Henri will won't - he earned his three star on a CAT trip in Florida in February. He will be working on 4 Star skills - and will have the venue to do it!)
Please help us provide this opportunity. Please help us raise the funds to take this group of young people to Scotland. Your donation will help cover the cost of transportation, fees and training. Thank you. I know that you will be blown away by these young people.