A high level of skill, however, is not required. Erik and his team can train most any volunteer to help with one of several activities, including fishing, hiking, geocaching, kayaking, rock climbing, star-gazing, arts and crafts, and more. Previous training is not required.
What is required is commitment.
Just as a bum elbow didn’t set back Lenoir, so Jim didn’t let chemotherapy get in the way of his volunteership. “You have to contribute,” says Jim. “We retired at 55, and if you just sit around, you’re gone. You need to be a productive citizen.” Plus, says Lenoir, “we are outdoors people. It’s just a joy to work out there. The whole place is amazing and does so much for so many kids.”
Like the Hilberts, Olstad has committed to volunteering at seven Outdoor retreats per year. “What attracts me the most,” he says, “is the chance to watch these kids develop.” He feels that over the course of a two-day retreat, students drop pretenses and “transition into becoming who they really are.
“Kids can do so much more than we think they can if we provide them the opportunity and the support.” During hikes to Circle Bluff, Olstad stays back with the slowest kids. After a while, the stragglers “start opening up, and what they share as they struggle up this climb can be amazing.
“If we provide whatever they need to find their success, then you see things you don’t get to see normally in the school environment.”