Two Joy-filled Days: What I Learned about 100 Elk

Categories: A/U Ranches, Adult Programs Tags: ,

By Diane Witters, National Alumni Board

“This is Adventure Unlimited at its best.”

I quietly wondered at this statement from Todd Herzer, who recently brought his group, Rainbow Valley Resource Network (RVRN), to the A/U Ranches. He was speaking about what’s probably the least-known program that the A/U Ranches offers: 100 Elk Outdoor Center.

But over the next couple of days, as I watched 100 Elk in action, I shared Todd’s enthusiasm for the way this extraordinary outdoor center is carrying on Cap and Marianne Andrews’ vision for living a love that embraces our larger community. 100 Elk reaches out to a variety of schools, unique-needs and at-risk groups, corporations and sports teams with this mission: “revealing the possibilities within.”

In October, I had a great time witnessing how two entities – 100 Elk and RVRN – merged as natural partners to offer enrichment activities to individuals who are striving to break out of society’s label of “disabled” and prove their God-given abilities. Participants and staff blended and blessed each other as they created their own brand of love-in-action, free of judgement, full of challenge and joyful expectation.

As I slipped in to view and photograph different activities at the A/U Ranches, I kept thinking about another remark from Todd, who is RVRN’s president: “The 100 Elk staff see people without limitations. This makes participants themselves more likely to overcome fears and get way beyond labels that others might place on them.”

Participants and staff from Rainbow Valley Resource Network enjoy the A/U Ranches ropes course during a 100 Elk program.
Participants and staff from Rainbow Valley Resource Network enjoy the A/U Ranches ropes course during a 100 Elk program.

At the ropes course, one participant, David, had just made his way – with lots of patient coaching and support – across tricky swings and walkway elements suspended 22 feet above the forest floor. “God was shining a light on me to show me where to step next.” This was David’s answer when Jeff Robertson, 100 Elk’s director, asked the group what they had learned that day that they could take away with them to solve problems in life.

In the archery range, I saw another participant, Margie, balancing an arrow in her bow and taking aim at a pumpkin target. At the corral, my nephew, Matt, listened with eager attention as Matthew Leon (a certified equestrian therapist) guided him through a series of exercises with the gentle pinto, Angel. At the end, he rode backwards in the saddle, the ultimate trust experience.

Riding backwards on a horse, like this RVRN participant, is a significant exercise in trust that takes place at 100 Elk.
Riding backwards on a horse, like this RVRN participant, is a significant exercise in trust that takes place at 100 Elk.

I poked my head into the kitchen to watch others from RVRN carefully preparing chicken enchiladas for our lunch. And that night, we were treated to some good laughs as we watched pairs act out humorous “Guess What I’m Doing?” drama skits in Valerie Lodge.

Speaking about the RVRN individuals he has come to know over the years, Todd says, “Stepping out of their comfort zone – breaking from a normal routine and trying something new – is extremely challenging. The 100 Elk staff have this gentle approach in working with our people, offering encouragement and simple little steps. Before they know it, they realize they are doing something they never knew they were capable of.”

While this particular session involved hosting clients who are also Christian Scientists, 100 Elk primarily serves secular groups. And, according to Jeff, this is a useful endeavor. “We get to figure out how to model and describe the values and a vision we hold so closely – without using CS terminology but with words our groups understand,” he explains. “This is a really good exercise.”

I can’t wait to visit 100 Elk in April, when it springs into action again – opening up wide to our larger community that’s hungry for the beauty, adventure and Christ spirit that welcome anyone who passes through the gate at the A/U Ranches. “Here we aim to live this outcome – Love our neighbor,” Jeff says. “The whole world values this.”

Do you know of a group that would be blessed by a 100 Elk experience, Adventure Unlimited’s secular outdoor education program? Learn more and share it.

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