Corvallis Canyons Gives Under-Served Kids Real Adventure
By Alexandra Schaefers
Corvallis is a story of success. Our city has been voted the most livable in the country and determined the safest, because there’s little crime and lots of interesting jobs and creative happenings here. “People get hidden under the success of the city,” Dan Coyle said, referring to members of the community that are suffering or could use help. Coyle is the founder of Corvallis Canyons, a project that will provide under-served youth with wilderness adventure experiences this summer, while also offering meaningful volunteer opportunities to the community.
Coyle says, in the past, nature was a more integral part of growing up. Catching frogs, playing in the creek, and riding bikes were standard childhood activities. Although many kids spend more time indoor these days, some grow up in under-resourced families that may not have any real access to nature or the outdoors.
“Teenagers have to have adventures,” Coyle said, “and bad adventures are better than no adventure.” Many kids are drawn to graffiti, using drugs, and fighting because they don’t have access to better options. He wants to get more kids out into the wilderness, giving them new experiences to broaden their sense of possibility.
Coyle is also currently working with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), Jackson Street Youth Shelter, and the Yes House to bring a total of 21 kids on canyoneering adventures this summer. From there the kids will go out in groups of seven or eight with volunteer guides and a staff member from their organization to explore Oregon canyons and creeks, where they can do things like jump in pools, rappel down waterfalls, and bushwhack. Many of these kids have never encountered wilderness on such an intimate level, if at all, or had situations where they felt safe enough to trust anyone. By doing activities with their peers they gain valuable teamwork knowledge in a fun wilderness setting, which may also help them connect more positively with others.
Not all the children will take to nature instantly, and some may not feel comfortable expressing the enjoyment they’re feeling. Coyle, who has previous experience working with kids in wilderness rehabilitation, believes it’s partly a leap of faith. Some kids may leave the trip feeling like they want more outdoor exposure, while those that don’t still have the memory of wilderness adventures they will never forget. Hannah Miller of Jackson Street Youth Shelter expressed a similar sentiment; she says the most exciting thing about Corvallis Canyons is “letting more kids create new memories, stories, and experiences.”
Miller went rock climbing with some children from JSYS last summer through Cascadia Expeditions, an important sponsor for this year’s Corvallis Canyons. She noticed after the outing that the kids’ focus was better and they were able to work as a team. She feels that the confidence gained on such trips will help the kids prepare for the future when they need to accomplish things like applying for jobs or opening their own checking account. Coyle also sees the importance of positive adventures in building confidence. He points out that people with resources and stable families take it for granted that it is safe to exercise initiative. Kids who grow up without theses resources may learn that taking risks is not worth it because they don’t have support when things go wrong.
Coyle also created Corvallis Canyons as a project where, as he says, “the opportunity to be a volunteer is a little more rich or empowering.” He adds that there are no prescribed volunteer positions and that people can step in where they see opportunities to be a leader, to be creative, and to invent things. For instance, Anthony Veltri has made a video for their crowdfunding campaign. Jon Ame is creating a logo and poster design. Peak Sports is providing promotion and has connected the project with the North Face for gear donations. Steve Harder is serving as director and donating transportation from Dial-a-Bus. Travis Moles will be a guide, and Cascadia Expeditions is donating the insurance and their co-founder Brett Gallagher is also serving as an advisor with Ralph Haines. There are many other ways to participate: everything from donating gear, organizing a fundraiser, or making the project into a permanent program.
Their current campaign aims to raise $2,250 to cover insurance, travel, gear, and administrative fees for each participant. It includes options to sponsor an individual child for $90 and buy promotional T-shirts. Currently, they are a little over 25% of their goal.