By Elizabeth “Buff” Colarossi, National Alumni Board
An interview with alumna Anabeth Cox, Andrews Society Member and former President of the Board of Trustees
Have you ever taken a trip, and although you expected it to be fun, it actually changed the trajectory of your life? This happened for my aunt, Anabeth Cox. In this interview, Aunt A.B. (my name for her) shares how her first visit to the A/U Ranches in the summer of 1990 changed her life, not to mention her engagement with the organization. Her contributions to the Adventure Unlimited community are immeasurable, from her service as president of the Board to her annual gifts supporting the growth of the A/U Ranches and DiscoveryBound.
Although I’ve been very fortunate to have her in my back pocket for my entire life, hearing these memories and finding a deeper understanding of her pivotal role in the history and future of Adventure Unlimited truly inspired me. She had the foresight and ability the organization needed at the exact moment in time to make a beautiful difference for so many Christian Scientists. We thank her for her work and devotion.
Here’s my conversation with Aunt A.B.
Do you remember driving onto camp for the first time?
The memory I have is of Valerie Lodge, and I do remember driving up to Round-Up to drop you off, and pick you up. I can remember thinking it was just a beautiful, beautiful camp.
How long was it before you returned to the A/U Ranches after the summer of 1990?
It would have been 10 years, because it was Labor Day of 2000. I went back for a teen weekend for a gathering to discuss ethics and Christian Science. I was seeing a man who knew Peter Van Vleck, the executive director of [Adventure Unlimited] at the time – and he knew they were looking for someone for the Board who had fundraising experience. That’s what I did – I love raising money. So, Peter arranged for me to come out for the weekend to see the kids, the camp. He took me all around the camp, we ate with the kids and I got to go horseback riding. That was my first real experience with what A/U is. I could see the property again from a different vantage point with kids there.
Peter shared a story with me about a young woman whose trip had been paid for by a Christian Science church. She had come with some of her friends. She was a youngster – about 14 or 15 years old, living on the streets and making money pumping gas – and became friends with one of the Christian Scientists who invited her to Sunday School. They had offered her this opportunity to attend this ethics conference, and all the way along, when she first went to Sunday School and when they told her they were going to pay for her way, she didn’t trust it; she didn’t think that people would do that.
When she got to [the A/U Ranches], people were just so loving, and she just couldn’t accept it – she was almost belligerent about it. But, as time went along, Peter said, you could just see her melt. He pointed her out to me, and she was sitting in the midst of a bunch of kids, and they were all listening to her because she had experiences that they didn’t know anything about. But when she was talking about Christian Science and what it had done for her, it really made a difference to them. I got this lump in my throat and that really touched me. I’m an old Girl Scout, President of the Council, and did everything with Girl Scouts in this local area, and I love what happens to little girls out of doors – it is magic. And when I saw what Christian Science did, it was very special, and it won me over. I wrote a check on the spot and handed it to Peter and drove off with my little dog in the car.
What was your most precious experience on the Board?
The most meaningful thing that happened early on in my service to the Board… we were discussing a very controversial subject on the Board – tempers were flaring and there were a lot of heated arguments going on. The practitioner (working with us) said, “I want us all to stop, and just pray,” and the room was quiet for probably five or 10 minutes, and when we started again, there was harmony. That was probably the most meaningful time I ever had on the Board. I loved that every meeting started with a metaphysical [discussion], and everyone had a chance to speak and add to it, and to respond. I love that about those meetings because it started us on the right track, it was very special, an incredible situation.
How do you feel you made a difference on the Board?
There are three things that come to mind. The first thing, when I joined the Board, the members felt that their board membership was their contribution to A/U. I was the fund development person on the Board. As a fundraiser, I knew that unless the Board was committed to either raising or giving funds to support the organization, we weren’t going to be able to attract high-worth individuals to give, because their first question is, “How much does your Board give, or does your Board give 100%?” It took several years, but we finally accomplished the goal that I had set, that each Board member either gave or raised a certain amount of money for A/U, and I considered that to be a real coup.
The second thing would be when DiscoveryBound went nationwide, and was offered to more than just A/U Ranches kids. It was going to be our gift to the Christian Science movement, to move DB into every camp so that it wasn’t just an A/U opportunity, and every Christian Science kid was able to go to a camp. It was huge when that decision was made.
The last thing is the [DB] National Leadership Council (NLC). When that program was introduced to the Board, it was seen as something that was an important aspect for Christian Science youth and was going to make a huge contribution to Christian Science in the future.
What have you heard is the single-most significant impact Adventure Unlimited has made on the lives of its participants, staff and volunteers?
The thing I hear about most is NLC. I really think people recognize the impact that program has, and all they have to do is see one student who has gone through that program, and they realize that they are different from their peers. I really think that NLC by itself has made the greatest impact, and I think the [DB] Compass program is doing the same thing, in a shorter time period. That is such an example of thinking outside the box. It is the single-most important thing.
I want to tell you about an experience I had going to an [NLC] All Class Retreat (ACR) early on. I was standing in Valerie Lodge visiting with some people, and they were telling me that they were really concerned that a little girl, their mentee, was so shy. It was her first year, and she just was so lost, and they were so concerned. This was the day after they first got together in the evening – it was the first morning, and she came bounding in and said, “I have a whole bunch of friends and family!” and went running off, and they said, “Well, I guess that takes care of that!”
How has your involvement with Adventure Unlimited changed you as a Christian Scientist?
I think it has given me hope, it has given me a reason to continue working, not only for A/U, but for other areas in the Christian Science community like Reading Rooms, lectures, things that are going to perpetuate Christian Science in the world. It has helped me see the importance of Christian Science growing and becoming what it is in the world.
Also, DiscoveryBound provides the camp experience in-between years at camp, so that kids who left camp told their parents, “I wish we could have camp here at home.” That’s what DB did.
I am very grateful for the way things are going at camp – the leadership is very professional, and I am grateful.
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