Outdoor Challenge Helps Put Our Children on the Path of Success

Article excerpt

Byline: BUILDING YOUTH ASSETS By Kellie Nemke For The Register-Guard

Even for an adventurous fourth-grade junior Girl Scout troop, today's activities would not be ordinary. These girls are about to embark on the city of Eugene's Spencer Butte Challenge Course and will stretch their physical, mental, social and emotional boundaries. Each girl will leave with her own story of personal discovery. This is just one.

Nestled in the canopy of the Douglas fir forest at the base of Spencer Butte Park, the Challenge Course consists of ropes, cables and logs - some low to or on the ground, others suspended 20 to 50 feet in the air. The group works through a series of challenges that become progressively more difficult.

By midafternoon they reach their last element - the High Y, a set of cables forming a big horizontal `Y' 20 feet in the air between three equidistant trees. With teammates holding ropes attached to the climbing pair, Susan and her daughter Carly are ready to climb.

Susan knows that the system is safe. But with a healthy fear of heights, she gains the strength to climb the ladder to the cable only with Carly's encouragement. Now on the cable, they both have a rope to hold as they traverse about 12 feet to the middle of the Y. Once in the middle, they inch out, holding onto a rope and each other for balance. They have one more cable to cross.

Carly looks down nervously as the cable sways in the breeze. `I don't want to let go. I don't think I can do it without you.'

Susan knows her daughter's tenacity. `You can do this, but you have to let go of my hand to reach for the tree,' says Susan. In that moment, Susan felt a flood of emotion - letting go and trusting the supportive community that she has created for her daughter is arduous, but brings great pride. With other caring adults and Carly's friends holding her safety ropes below, Susan is encouraging Carly to stand on her own.

Fingertip to fingertip with her mom, Carly slowly lets go and turns toward the tree. Just four feet left - three feet. `Mom, I'm doing it!' Two more steps - `I did it. I did it!'

Back on the ground, the exhilarated pair embraces. `I didn't want to let go, Mom, but I let go and I did it.'

Carly may have been talking about reaching the tree, but Susan knew that the success also represented Carly reaching for her dreams, her goals, her future. …