The 24-hour Mt. Everett challenge!

IMG_9311On the weekend of June 10th-11th, The CT Youth Excellence Project joined Outside Perspectives to backpack up and over Mt. Everett on the Appalachian Trail in Southern Massachusetts. This was the first backpacking experience for the group and it was in preparation for their upcoming excursion with Outside Perspectives to the Bigelow Mountains in Maine.

The group met at the trail head of Race Brook Falls Trail and immediately started their hike. For some, this first mile was very difficult as they adjusted to the weight of their packs and the steep uphill climb. However, the group persevered by working together and made it to a beautiful 100-ft waterfall known as Race Brook Falls. The water was clear, cold and refreshing as the boys took off their shoes to cool off from the hike. We refilled our water bottles and continued pushing upwards, passing Race Brook campsite and turning onto the Appalachian Trail.

The next section of the hike was the most challenging, as participants scaled the steep south side of Mt. Everett. The climb included scrambling up rock so steep wooden steps had been bolted in place for foot holds. As we emerged from the scrubby, small trees and made it to the top, the crew celebrated their success. The amazing viewpoint looked east across the Housatonic Valley.IMG_9242_censored

We didn’t stay too long as the black flies were out with a vengeance, so the crew soon made its way down the trail to Guilder Pond, away from the bugs.

By the pond, under the setting sun, the group took the opportunity to dip on the cool water and relax after a hard day. The area known as Mount Everett State Reservation has some beautiful examples of old-growth forest that is rare in this part of the United States. These rare trees can be found around Guilder Pond, which adds to its unique beauty. The group then headed down the trail to Glen Brook Campsite where we made some burritos and built a campfire. That night, the almost full Strawberry Moon rose above the camp-site (a pink or red tinted moon in June).

At 4am the next morning a few brave individuals hiked back up Mt. Everett to watch the sunrise over the valley. This is an exceptionally beautiful experience, only available to those willing to rise to the challenge of a very early day. They woke before the birds and listened to them start their morning song as they hiked and even spotted a porcupine on the trail. The sunrise did not disappoint as it was a beautifully clear morning.IMG_9310

The intrepid morning hikers made it back down to camp in time to wake their crew mates and start cooking breakfast. The group hiked out of camp and down the Elbow Trail that ends at The Berkshire School. The crew returned a mere 24-hours after departure, all-in-all a wonderful journey and just the beginning of The Youth Excellence Project’s exciting adventures with Outside Perspectives. Outside Perspectives instructors Nicky and Shannon felt privileged to meet and spend time with such a special group and look forward to spending more time with them up in Maine.

 

Unexpected Gifts From Painful Experiences….

Nate FotorSometimes the most unexpected gifts come from the most painful experiences.  As many of you know, our dear friend and co-instructor, Nathan Bliss, unexpectedly passed in late April. The loss has been difficult. He was a talented instructor with great wit and humor and a huge heart for kids. He was known for digging deep and giving it his all to ensure that students received the best from him. At services and celebrations, we met people and heard story after story from across the decades of his life, affirming our experiences of his special qualities. While we would trade it all to have Nate and his crazy antics back Earthside, we are grateful for the gifts he left behind for us. Unexpected joys in the deep loss….

Some of these gifts come from Nate’s family and his good friends, Frankie and Kara Cecchinelli, founders and owners of Figidini’s Wood Fired Eatery in Providence, Rhode Island.

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A bit of the backstory…. Upon the restaurant’s grand opening four years ago, true to form, Nate drove to Providence, Rhode Island ensuring that he was the first customer to give the first dollar to support his friends.  The signed dollar has hung in the restaurant since that day.  On the drive home from Nate’s services Frankie and Kara asked themselves the inevitable questions one asks with loss. The idea was formed to make a donation to Outside Perspectives in Nate’s honor. On their restaurant’s anniversary, shortly after Nate passed, Frankie and Kara hosted a week where a percentage of all their profits would go to Outside Perspectives.

Several months ago, Nate had set a date on the calendar to hike up Bear Mountain and to one of his favorite waterfalls with Kara and Frankie. Kara decided that she would 18556990_824539274371257_5573315100567024440_nkeep the date and invited a few of Nate’s friends and family to join her and Frankie. At the waterfall, Kara presented the very generous Figidini donation check of nearly $4,000 to the Outside Perspectives Nathan Bliss Memorial Scholarship Fund!  The fund will provide scholarships for groups of youth who otherwise would not be able to afford to participate in a Wilderness Expedition.

A truly significant and special day had evolved from Nate’s plan to take Kara on a hike. The most powerful experiences are difficult to put into words. What can be said is that the day was felt deeply — full with laughter, tears, freezing cold waterfall plunges, new friendships, sushi, and enough sunshine to keep our faces to the sky. We felt Nate present with us celebrating our gathering.  It was just the type of day, with just the type of group, that he would have loved to have been a part of.

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Thank you to Frankie and Kara and Figidini’s. Just as meaningful as their generous financial support are the new friendships we have with them.  They are delightful people with big hearts. We look forward to spending time with them in the future and taking them up on their offer to volunteer with us. Because of their support, we now have the opportunity to fund an expedition for Charter Oaks Boxing Academy (COBA) located in inner city Hartford later this summer! We know that Nate would have been psyched at the opportunity to work with such a great organization as COBA. They are fully onboard with the value and power of experiences in the outdoors. The COBA program is transformational for many of the youth who participate; combined, we believe we can do incredible work together!

We are so deeply thankful for the generosity we have received from Nate’s family as well.  In lieu of flowers, Nate’s family named Outside Perspectives as the donation recipient. We thank all of those who donated over the past two months. The Nathan Bliss Memorial Fund will be used exclusively to serve youth.  We take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to honor Nate through supporting youth as he did so brilliantly.

With sincere thanks — Nicky and Shannon

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2017 AEE Northeast Regional Conference

A blog post from Outside Perspectives Executive Director, Nicky Wood:

On April 22nd I went to the Northeast Regional Conference for the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) in Becket, Massachusetts and thought I would share some of my experience. AEE is a nonprofit, international, professional organization whose mission is to develop and promote experiential education. Its membership consists of individuals and organizations with affiliations in education, recreation, outdoor and adventure programming, the environment, mental health, youth development, programming of people with disabilities, service learning, and organizational development. The intent of AEE is to contribute to making a more just and compassionate world by transforming education. Needless to say, if Outside Perspectives were going to be connected to a professional organization, AEE would be a perfect fit.

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Nicky & friends in 2005 in Tucson, AZ a day after the AEE conference. She was a Junior in College.

I have been aware of AEE since I started in the field of outdoor education when I was in undergrad. I attended my first international AEE conference in 2005 as a volunteer. It was in Tucson Arizona and I remember sleeping in a greyhound bus station on my way down, volunteering to gain access to the conference and bumming a space on the floor of an apartment of friends when I got there to save money. I was interested to see if I could make a connection to find a summer job and was also hoping to soak in as much as I could about being an outdoor professional from the experience. I remember coming back from the conference feeling excited and inspired about the road ahead because it helped to show me that what I was truly passionate about had a professional context and some very inspiring individuals I was hoping to follow. I knew I would be back in years to come.

Since that time I have attended a number of international conferences in places like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Portland, Oregon as an individual. But I had never found my way to a regional conference and never had the opportunity to represent Outside Perspectives until last weekend. A smaller and more intimate experience, I realized this conference would be the perfect place to find local contacts that could provide me with support and guidance for what I was trying to accomplish with Outside Perspectives.

I was only able to attend thanks to a generous scholarship from AEE, which I was awarded after applying via email a few months back. They asked that to apply one should draft an email stating why they desired to go and what their need was. It was a perfect opportunity to meet the folks who would immediately understand what we were trying to do and maybe even give me some advise or ideas. I was humbled, honored and excited to be chosen to receive the scholarship to attend.

While I was at the conference I attended many workshops, met new and interesting people, made many valuable connections and found myself feeling rejuvenated and inspired by the many amazing people who had successfully done what I was trying to do by starting Outside Perspectives. If there is anything that an AEE conference is known for it is making people feel welcome and included. There is a definite feeling that one has found one’s tribe as you can find commonalities with almost everyone you meet. One organization I connected with was The Connecticut Experiential Education Association, which I am hopeful could be a way for Outside Perspectives to become more involved in the outdoor education profession in Connecticut.

I attended workshops about adventure based programming as well as facilitation and processing. The two that took place Saturday morning gave me new games and activities to use on our courses this year and even helped me develop new ways to facilitate games and activities I am already familiar with. In the afternoon, I went to workshops that were more reflective in nature, one about looking at who you are as a leader and another a discussion about the professional issues that women in an adventure programming may face and how to address them. As a woman leading an organization I found both workshops engaging and their facilitators inspiring.

I had time during meals and in between workshops to connect with like-minded individuals and share my story more then a few times. I learned quite a lot about other programs and where people stood on their journey in the outdoor education world. The day ended with an on-stage inspirational interview with Laurie Gullion as part of the ongoing Josh Miner Dialogue Series. The series consists of a public undefined dialogue or conversation between the years’ honoree and another professional in the field. Laurie is a woman who’s love and passion for wild places combined with her resilience and tenacity has lead her to amazing places. Her life stories were exciting and motivating.

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I have a feeling my journey with AEE, especially in the Northeast, has just begun. I hope to remain connected with the individuals I met while at the conference and continue to find opportunities to meet more folks in this amazing field of work that has always felt like home to me.

 

SUCCESSFUL Friend-Raiser!

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Our youngest friends checking out the tent

Mother nature pulled it together just in time for us this past Sunday, melting the snow and waking up the sun to provide a brilliant spring day for our event.  We estimate that 40-50 people joined us at Holcomb Farm in Granby, CT to share beautiful food, community, and laughter. A presentation, about Outside Perspectives and how community members can support us, rounded out the day.

Friends of Friend-Raiser

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A beautiful day in the sun!

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Guests spent time during the event meeting other community members, playing games, and checking out our newly donated backpacking equipment, including our youngest friends who took a particular liking to the fort-like tent. As the picture (above left) shows, it didn’t take long after their arrival for our kid-guests to flee their boots unleashing their caged winter feet. It was such a pleasure to see them running around the field enjoying being outside and in each other’s company.

17426082_1388292857881235_4698261183949390142_nNo spring gathering is complete without some delicious food to share. We are grateful to some incredibly generous (and DELICIOUS) donations we received for the event including a split pea soup from Heirloom Kitchen, sourdough pizza crusts from Hungry Ghost, and a freshly harvested spinach salad from Holcomb Farm.  There were plenty of willing hands that contributed to making and baking (AND EATING) homemade pizzas in the outdoor brick oven as well. With full bellies, we took the party inside to learn more about Outside Perspectives and how interested folks can support our mission.  

The event was a great success as we were able to gain a new board member, were offered t-shirt donations for two expeditions this summer and learned many great ideas for moving forward with new partnerships.  We will be contacting people soon to set up meetings as we plan our next actions steps.

We want to extend a BIG THANK YOU to those who participated in our event. It was a great reminder of the power of community and that we have a GREAT one behind us! Thank you for your generous donations as well. We had enough cover the cost of the event and were able to put a little away! If you were unable to attend and have ideas or questions for us, please feel free to reach out!

Until next time….HAPPY SPRING!

Announcing Friend-Raising Event!

ANNOUNCING FRIEND-RAISING EVENT!! 

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We are hosting a FRIEND-RAISING event on April 2nd from 12:00-3:00 pm at the beautiful and historic Holcomb Farm property in Granby, CT. There are no obligations, financial or otherwise, for attending this event. We promise fun along with information.

What is a “FRIEND-RAISING” you ask? 

It is a gathering for folks like yourself who have expressed interest, curiosity or support of Outside Perspectives.  It is a chance to learn about the program, to share and eat delicious food together, and to meet and connect with others who are invested in getting youth outdoors! We’re looking for community connections with people who are interested in our mission and who might be in a position to help us.  Support could look like moral support (we need a lot of that :)) introductions to youth organizations, sharing our mission via word of mouth, connecting us with potential funders, becoming a board member or offering some other expertise you may have.

We will begin the afternoon with lunch. We’ll be enjoying locally sourced food including home-made brick oven pizzas with crusts generously donated by HUNGRY GHOST BAKERY, salad donated from HOLCOMB FARM CSA and delicious soup (hopefully from HEIRLOOM KITCHEN). Following lunch, we will give a presentation about Outside Perspectives followed by a Q&A. To round out the day, we will practice what we preach and go outside. All will be welcome to go on an optional guided or independent stroll on the woods trails around the farm.

If you know of anyone else who might be interested in joining us for this event, feel free to share this announcement. We’d love to meet them! Kids are welcome as well. RSVP to nicky@outsideperspectives.org or shannon@outsideperspective.org.

The event will take place at Holcomb Farm workshop space at 113 Simsbury Rd, West Granby, CT 06090 from 12:00-3:00 pm on April 2nd, 2017. As we will have some time outdoors, it is recommended to dress accordingly. You are welcome to stay as little or as long as you like. We have reserved a heated indoor space with restrooms for the presentation.

We hope to see you there!

Upcoming Friend-Raising Event!

Nicky, OP Director, and Maya, world’s greatest office dog.
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Shannon, Program Manager, taking a break to get some air in the fresh new powder.

FINALLY… winter in New England! After 16+ inches of fresh powder we’re just beginning to earn our spring fever. We’ve been spending LOTS of time indoors preparing for this upcoming seasons expeditions! 

In between phone calls with perspective partners, we find ourselves excitedly peering out the window awaiting our newest backpacking equipment deliveries! Another box of sleeping bags and sleeping pads should arrive in the next couple of weeks making our gear stores complete for 13 participants!  We’re feeling deep gratitude for the wonderful and generous people who supported our Gear Raiser this past fall. We would not be where we are today without your support!!

ANNOUNCING FRIEND-RAISING EVENT!! 

farm-crew-2015-for-web holcomb

We are hosting a FRIEND-RAISING event on April 2nd from 12:00-3:00 pm at the beautiful and historic Holcomb Farm property in Granby, CT. There are no obligations, financial or otherwise, for attending this event. We promise fun along with information.

What is a “FRIEND-RAISING” you ask? 

It is a gathering for folks like yourself who have expressed interest, curiosity or support of Outside Perspectives.  It is a chance to learn about the program, to share and eat delicious food together, and to meet and connect with others who are invested in getting youth outdoors! We’re looking for community connections with people who are interested in our mission and who might be in a position to help us.  Support could look like introductions to youth organizations, connections with possible funders, becoming a board member, keeping an eye out for opportunities to help us in the future, and sharing our mission via word of mouth. Our itinerary will include a  short presentation, Q&A, conversation, home-made brick oven pizzas (made on the spot!), and to practice what we preach, an optional stroll in the woods and fields around the farm. If you know of anyone else who might be interested in joining us for this event, feel free to share this announcement. We’d love to meet them! Kids are welcome as well. RSVP to nicky@outsideperspectives.org.

The event will take place at Holcomb Farm workshop space at 113 Simsbury Rd, West Granby, CT 06090 from 12:00-3:00 pm on April 2nd, 2017. As we will have some optional time outdoors, it is recommended to dress accordingly. You are welcome to stay as little or as long as you like. We have reserved a heated indoor space with restrooms.

We hope to see you there!

Waterbury YSB gives back!

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October 7th, a group of curious and caring youth from Waterbury YSB joined Outside Perspectives on a day off from school for some exciting games, initiatives, and an opportunity to give back to a local park. After meeting new friends and getting to know each other a little better through some ice breakers we tested their ability to work together as a team. These folks caught on quickly using some newly acquired communication skills to solve problems together.

We learned about some of the natural and wild surroundings in the local community and rallied together to remove SEVEN OVERFLOWING BAGS of trash from Fulton Park. Much of the garbage had clearly been polluting the beautiful park pond for many months, if not years. We were so grateful that these youth were willing to put in such a strong effort to help their community with a job many would choose to avoid. The youth made a HUGE difference while also having some fun!

When the trash picking was done, no one was too shy or too old to take a turn on the swings! We had so much fun with these guys and we hope to see them again soon!

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