By Missy Hyatt, CTRS, Project Sanctuary's Chief of Programs
As a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) and one of Project Sanctuary's first employees, I've worked with a lot of kids. I did some rough math and calculated that I've worked with over 1,000 kids over the years.
When I look back at all the retreats and kids I've met, many sweet faces come to mind.
But one story in particular jumps out because it shows the power of the outdoors and reminds me why recreation therapy is so important. I first wrote this post in 2015 and since then, there's been a groundswell of support for the outdoors helping people heal, which is so exciting to see.
The retreat started just like all the others - with a group of kids that had been left with me (a stranger with a loud voice) while the parents had orientation.
They were all sizing me up, trying to figure out what to expect. Two preteen boys were determined not to have fun. One of them brought a skateboard and was thoroughly disappointed with the dirt and gravel parking lot. The other made sure I knew that he was NOT a child and assured me that he wouldn’t like anything we were doing.
Over the first few days of youth program, I kept trying to find different activities that might appeal to their teenage boyness.
In the end, I kicked them outside. I told them to go for a hike and explore the open property between all the cabins in our area.
I was sitting and playing with some other kiddos when I realized that those two boys had not come back in to complain that they were still bored. I decided to go on a teenager hunt to find out what had finally grabbed their attention. I stepped out on the front porch and was greeted with this scene:
It's becoming one of my most memorable pictures taken at a retreat, and I smile every time I see it.
These boys were outside literally carrying around a dead log.
Not only were they just carrying a log, they were yelling and laughing while doing it.
I was so happy to see that these boys were no longer missing gaming devices, TV, movies, cell phones or even the skateboard. They were no longer determined to not have fun.
They were joyful. They were absorbed with OUTSIDE. It’s not like they were even playing an organized game outside. They were making their own experiences - with a dead log.
That's the power of the outdoors.