BENEFITING: COLORADO OUTWARD BOUND SCHOOL
In 1968, at my age of 27, I saw a flyer on the faculty bulletin board at the Jr. High where I was teaching. That flyer would end up changing my life….. The flyer was promoting the Colorado Outward Bound School’s first Teacher’s Practicum course (1968). It was to be a 35-day course with segments in mountaineering, whitewater rafting, sailing, inner city immersion, and some campus academics. I applied and was only 1 of 5 women in the U.S. that attended that summer’s course. The course was to effect my life in ways that I still find myself describing and in awe of! Once accepted, we were asked to ‘prepare’ ourselves for the physicality of the course by doing some push ups, sit ups, and a mile run each day. “No problem”, I said to myself. I had not been raised as an ‘outdoor girl’ (this was the 60s and the start of the women’s lib movement, and I had been raised in Detroit) and these expectations soon became the beginning of a series of challenges……like a lifetime of them! Suffice it to say, that my course experience gave birth in me to a side of myself I didn’t even know existed. I learned to love to sweat, to hurt, to be fearful, to care intensely about the success of others. I ended each day with great joy and pride in who I was in spite of a spectrum of emotions. While on my (first) personal solo, I wrote extensively about ‘this new me’ and was often teary-eyed with thankfulness for having opted to take this Outward Bound course. There weren’t very many women in those days backpacking or rock climbing. As a school teacher, I was an ideal match for the Colorado Outward Bound School, applying my skills as an empathetic and effective communicator with the outdoor skills of the program. Soon after, I was asked if I’d become an instructress. Another “road diverged in the wood.” For the next 18 years of my life, I combined teaching school by the school year and working field courses for the COBS during the summers. To say what joy that brought me to be able to share my newfound love of the outdoors and the parallel personal growth and confidence/leadership development that is provided by the structure of Outward Bound courses to hundreds of other students, is next to impossible to describe. With each course, looking into the eyes of 9 wide-eyed students (be they teenagers, teachers, business professionals, rehabbing alcoholics, etc.) on day 1 and then experiencing their sense of personal empowerment and confidence on the final day of the course, was beyond rewarding. To this day, it has influenced me in my own personal development. Now at nearly 75 years of age, I can look back and recognize the life-changing impact it continues to have on my own life, my relationships, my own path. The spirit of adventure, the belief that “I can do whatever I choose to do,” and the joy I experience when I combine both of those have compelled me to live a very full and joy-filled life. Which brings me to my current adventure. As I looked at this upcoming 75th year, I wondered to myself in what way(s) did I want to celebrate. With 8 adult grandchildren, six and one-half great grandchildren and a loving husband, I had any number of possible directions that I might choose. What resonated to me was this – “I want to somehow celebrate how blessed I have been with good health (and my commitment throughout to take good care of that) and that so much of my life was impacted by that first Outward Bound course I took at age 27.” I wanted a personal (outdoor) experience and I wanted to thank Outward Bound for its existence in my life. So, here I am………. I have committed to doing the Black Canyon Triathlon on October 1st to culminate my birthday celebrations. To “pay forward” to Outward Bound for its lasting impact on me and my life, I have chosen to use the triathlon as a fundraiser for “The Gruffie Scholarship”, a Colorado Outward Bound School scholarship which is specifically set aside to enable female students (ages 14-24) to participate in an Outward Bound course that they may not be able to afford. My goal is to raise $7500 ~ which would send a young women on a course (perhaps a 15-day course or a 22-day course). I am excited about this challenge in my life. Unlike other challenges in my life, fund raising is a new one. This one feels like a 5.10 rock climb…..or a 17,000’ peak ascent……but I am committed to the challenge and look forward to being successful once again – this time for some young women out there who may find what I’ve found……and in the process, I get the payoff of participating in another triathlon.