A mother whose son died in his bedroom was just heartbreaking to listen to as tons of teens engage in this new way to bring excitement into their lives. So very, very sad.
As an adventure seeker, I get the need to shake up your daily routine and insert some excitement to make you feel alive. But just that night before the NPR news piece, I attended a tribute to a wonderful person who has dedicated the last decade to bringing high adventure into the lives of teens in a much healthier and beneficial way.
Tim Minnich is a Venture Scouting Leader from Knauers, PA (#214), a fantastic co-ed teen program of high adventure which is part of the Boy Scouts of America.
www.scouting.org/venturing as part of the Boy Scouts of America.
My two children, Sierra & Bryce, were very involved in this program for the years they homeschooled and sought out groups they could relate to. I met Tim on a job in Maine whenI was hired by Scouting Magazine to do a feature story on his crew’s 100 mile Maine Wilderness hike and climb up Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the 2,100 national scenic Appalachian Trail www.appalachiantrail.org/. I brought my kids along because they love to climb mountains. Within a few hours in the crew’s company, both kids decided to join and before long, Sierra was asked to be trip leader.
I was quite taken back by their decision, because although I had been working for Scouting Magazine for many years and really loved the program and the boys, I had some baggage from my past as a long distance thru-hiker in the 70’s that I was concerned would color my children’s ideas and feelings about the program. Years ago we would find scout troops trashing the springs that we so depended on, hiking the AT in groups of 50 and disturbing our peace, led by leaders who knew little about no-trace ethics. That was years ago and things have certainly changed. I have turned into a very big supporter of the Scouting program. So I was happily surprised to see my children wanting to jump in and join. A lot may have had to do with Tim Minnich.
Tim has led my children down the Allagash River in Maine on a week-long trip without the guidance of their dear mother (I was not invited!), up Mount Washington in New Hampshire and other crew members across the High Sierra in California and up 14,500 foot Mount Whitney and also up ice walls ice climbing. It’s not that Tim knew how to do all these things himself, he often learned right alongside the crew.
At the awards program where Tim received the highest honor an adult Venturing crew leader could receive- The Venturing Leadership Award, crew members stood up and shared their feelings about Tim and how he impacted and changed their lives.
One young lady said that Tim encouraged her to learn to swim so she could accompany the crew on a white water rafting trip. She flunked multiple times and finally when she was ready to jump in the lake and take her test AGAIN, a large water snake swam by at that exact spot. Tim continued to encourage her and she passed and is going on to be a river GUIDE! That’s the kind of life changing effect Tim and the Venture Crew program has on these young adults.
My own daughter, Sierra, went on to learn leadership skills to form a coutry wide student conservation organization in our area (Schuylkill County, PA) and in 2 years, the group executed 24 service projects from stream clean-ups, dump clean-ups, tree planting, building turtle habitat boxes, etc. Her leadership work earned her a $10,000 national conservation award that helped pay her Temple U.- Honors education. She went on to found the Temple U. Outdoor Club which now boasts over 30 members and is extremely active helping college students get out of the city and enjoy the outdoors. Sierra also volunteered at Urban Blazers in Phila- a great program for getting inner city Phila. youth outdoors. This is the kind of impact Tim and Venturing has on these teens.
I was deeply moved by Tim’s dedication and the award ceremony but hearing the NPR piece on child strangulation the very next morning, really made more of an impact. Who knows how many youth’s lives have been “saved” – literally and figuratively by programs and heroes like Tim. In these tough times when our youth are challenged beyond what many can handle, thank God for programs like Scouting. Get involved!