Last month, YouThrive led its first therapeutic outdoor excursion since the outbreak of the pandemic: a 2-day river rafting adventure on the South Fork of the American River. The trip brought youth together to reward them for their personal achievements over the past year and give them a chance to experience what they’ve learned about resilience, tenacity, and empathy. “What a joy it was to be together!” said You Thrive program manager Vernon Pope-Banks. “There are a lot studies about the importance of in-person social connection, but seeing it come to life before our eyes is always magical.”
“The fun and interpersonal connections began even before we got to the campsite as we drove up together,” said Pope-Banks. “The team building and positive energy just built on itself all the way through the trip with hilarious card games, big block Jenga, s’mores fails, splashing, floating, and of course, paddling through the rapids!
Pope-Banks admits that at first, there was a bit of nervousness mixed with the excitement about the trip, as most attendees had never seen water or a campground. Some folks had fears of the water, of swimming, and of getting wet. Others were nervous about camping and had no idea how to pitch a tent or make a fire. “It was all totally foreign. It was uncomfortable and the youth felt out of place.”
But resiliency, conquering fears, and learning to take a step out of our comfort zones are all core YouThrive concepts, so the trip became an opportunity for youth to practice the tools they have learned. “We had a chance to meet ‘adversity’ and learn how to respond to it. We talked about finishing what you start, focusing on the positive, and seeing things through even when we are uncomfortable. And, we found that we could even have a lot of fun while doing it!”