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There are few better sights than a wooded trailhead, the first tracks on a ski run, or the summit of a long climb. If you are reading our blog, there is a pretty good chance that you love these pursuits as much as we do. Most of our waking hours are spent daydreaming about our next adventure, scheming and planning for the next opportunity to open up the gear closet, pack a bag and go. So, in this season of giving, why not give the thing we value most? A better time outside.

The outdoors have made me a better person. They taught me self-reliance. To consume carefully. To value and care for the world around me. To stop and savor the view. However, the outdoors were not my only teacher. My dad taught me to leave the campsite better than I found it. My buddy Jason taught me to plug a cam and equalize an anchor. Justin taught me how to properly clean and lube my bike chain.

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We have all hiked a trail that someone else built, been shown the finer points to pitching a tent, or been taught how to construct the perfect campfire. Now, it is time to pass these gifts along. The stories below are moments where the Therm-a-Rest family has seen the value of giving their time.

In this edition of Therm-a-Rest™ Explore, we hope to inspire you to give time this holiday season.

Kyle Thackray

“It was a classic PNW ski day, 35 degrees and pouring rain, the kind of day where many of us would have headed straight to the bar. However, my kids were out there, in borrowed outerwear, repeatedly face planting in the slushy snow and laughing till their stomachs hurt. If I hadn’t made them come in at the end of the night, they would have kept going until the lifts closed. As they were getting ready to leave they asked “Will you be here next week Kyle?”.

That moment made me realize just how grateful they were to be outside doing something fun and to have someone willing to spend some time with them.”

Kiira Schoessler

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“I have found that I always think more clearly when I’m in the outdoors. Maybe it’s the fresh air, the lack of noise or the beautiful views. For kids on a Big City Mountaineers trip, not only do they hike through stunning vistas, they are given the chance to dig deep, reflect on their life and make goals outside the clamor of the city. In the outdoors, they are free to dream big and discover what they really want in life.”

Patricia McDonald

“The mountains have always been a source of freedom, adventure, and tranquility for me. Big City Mountaineers gave me the opportunity to share these things with the youth of our city. I spent a week in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with an incredible groups of kids. We laughed, hurt, and learned so much from each other. This season, please consider giving time or resources to share the wild places we love with the next generation.”

Jenny Curto

“My first season of SOS was in 2013 and had no idea what to expect. We sat in the cold, waiting for the kids to show up at Summit West. When the bus pulled up and the kids flooded out gazing at the hills with wide eyes and smiling faces. I realized that many of them were seeing snow for their very first time. Imagine that! Although we are there to teach the kids core values through the sport of snowboarding, the most fulfilling part for me was reminding the kids to look and around and process the fact that they are in the mountains.”

Keith Erps

“Foster Falls is a small climbing crag near the town of Jasper, Tennessee. It was the first crag I visited after moving to Tennessee and holds countless memories of fall days climbing with good friends on perfect sandstone. It was my gym, playground and church, all rolled into a few acres of Tennessee backcountry.

The local climbing coalition partnered with the Access Fund several times to maintain the trails, replace climbing bolts, and build bridges and stairs to help minimize impact of our use. I volunteered several times, doing everything from moving earth by hand to designing creek crossings. The trails are heavily trafficked (and enjoyed) by climbers, hikers, runners, and backpackers. Giving back to a place that gave me so much seemed like a small gesture, but the work was incredibly fulfilling.

Since moving out West, I have visited Fosters several times. During the approach to the wall, I get to turn up a switchback that I helped create. Farther down the trail, I watch a gurgling stream pass under a bridge that we built. I hear a sigh of relief and the click of a carabiner as a climber finds safety at a bolt that we replaced.

Now, sitting at my desk in Seattle, it puts a smile on my face to think that, at this very moment others are out enjoying this special place that I had the privilege to care for. The Access Fund and countless other organizations allow volunteers like us to create and care for the places we love.”

Justus Hyatt

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“It not only takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to create an outdoorsperson. Mentors and friends have spent countless hours teaching me the skills needed to enjoy the wild places of the Pacific Northwest.

My friends Jim Meyers and Chris Barchet took me on my first overnight splitboard-mountaineering trip. It was my first time roping up on a mountain, my first time using an ice axe, and my first time bivying on the side of a mountain for an early morning summit push. Jim and Chris were patient with my endless questions and provided thoughtful instruction. That experience has inspired me to continue pursuing snow-capped peaks and bottomless turns.

I pay it forward by teaching my friends about splitboarding and a life lived in the mountains, just like Chris and Jim did for me.”

Anthony Gervais

“I have been working with SOS for the last six years. It has been an amazing experience for me to be in a mentoring role and get to share my love for the mountains with youth who might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore the mountains in our backyard.

One of my favorite parts is seeing the transformation in the youth; once we start snowboarding and are in the mountains, all the worries from the day, or school, or at home seem to melt away and they get to be kids; care-fee and having fun! After a couple nights of this, and over the course of a couple seasons I can see the changes as these “underprivileged” youth begin to display the core values we talk about each evening after snowboarding together: Courage, Discipline, Wisdom, Integrity, and Compassion, Wisdom.

It’s easy to get caught up in a busy life of work, friends and family, and playing outdoors, but I feel truly honored to be able to give a small amount of my time to those that I hope become our leaders in the future.”

These stories are just a small sample of what giving time can do. The exciting part is that these stories are often just the beginning of something bigger. An afternoon building a few switchbacks can create years of enjoyment for a community of hikers. A ski season spent mentoring a group of kids can spark a lifetime pursuit. Whether you are volunteering with a large organization or training the new kid at the bouldering gym, the time that you give is priceless.