Wilderness Program Transforms Lives

by | Oct 11, 2022 | Blog

The weather may be starting to turn chilly, but it’s always a great time to enjoy the outdoors—and it’s also important for a youth’s development to keep their connection to our natural world.

With teens so immersed in texting and video games and other tech-focused pursuits, they often lose both the connection to each other and to the world around them. That’s why North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center designed our Wilderness Respite Program, which provides a unique opportunity for at-risk adolescents to participate in hikes and other nature activities that foster individual growth, leadership skills, self-esteem and friendships while also promoting environmental stewardship.

Teens who take part in the program often have issues such as depression, anxiety and ADHD. Many also lack the social skills that enable them to bond with their peers.

One of our clients who has made an incredible transformation as a result of the Wilderness Respite Program is James, who first came to the Guidance Center more than two years ago, James had no one to call friend. Even before the pandemic, James was isolated and lonely. His ADHD and anxiety made his behavior off-putting to others his age.

His parents were heartbroken; they were desperate to have their child feel welcomed and supported by his peers. While he got good grades, he viewed himself as a failure. School was just another place he felt like an outsider.

After starting individual and family therapy with one of our expert mental health experts, James joined the Wilderness Respite Program, which is made possible through the support of our generous donors.

During the hikes, James bonded with other teens in the program. They understood James, because many of them had the same challenges themselves. On trips to places such as Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve and Harriman State Park, teens learn how to be independent, as well as how to work together. It’s an incredibly affirming experience for kids who rarely get praise in school or other social situations.

James is no longer a sad and lonely teen with no friends to call his own.  And he no longer feels like a “loser,” which is how he referred to himself when he first entered treatment.

Here is how the parent of another of our Wilderness Respite Program teens put it in a letter to the Guidance Center:

“My son started in the Wilderness Program about two years ago. I believe the program is the best thing he’s ever had. The Wilderness Program brings kids away from all the media; they go to nature, looking at natural scenery instead of a TV or computer screen. Talking with their peers, they do real human interactions while hiking. Sometimes it’s a long hike or challenging terrain, or even cold or hot or windy weather. It trains young people in endurance skills. The leaders of the trip are kind and always encourage the young people to keep going while they’re having fun.

This program has so many benefits for kids like my son, who has problems with social skills, making friends and anxiety. But every time he comes back from hiking, even though he’s tired and his feet hurt, he feels fulfilled and excited about everything he saw during his hike. It’s a great program!”

We are grateful to all of you who support our work and make the Wilderness Respite Program, along with our many other innovative initiatives, a reality.

Please reach into your hearts today and give as generously as you can.

Thank you for caring!

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