Here are two options for this summer:
1. You could sit on your butt inside, wishing you had someone to play with outside. 2. You could play outside and make a bunch of new friends, having adventures you might never have experienced, while building great karma because you’re helping others.
If you chose option two, welcome to Splore.
Splore is a 30-year-old organization, staffed mostly by volunteers, that provides outdoor experiences for people of all abilities and financial status. “We have a number of people that just want to come and help us on our river or climbing program,” says executive director Steve Coltrin. “They have a background in outdoor recreation, or they have a desire to help people with disabilities.”
Being a Splore volunteer can be an emotional experience. “Two weeks ago, in our Rock On! program, which is indoor climbing, we had a 5-year-old with cerebral palsy,” Coltrin says. “She was climbing on the wall, and she extended her right foot out on a hold and put her weight on it. It was the first time ever in her life that she had put weight on her right leg; she didn’t walk. All the volunteers cheered, and her mom was crying.”
But there’s a big “get,” as well as a “give.” Volunteers go on rafting, canoeing and rock-climbing excursions. In winter, they go skiing and snowshoeing. “It allows people to take a trip they may otherwise not be able to afford,” Coltrin says. “We would like them to pay their own way, and a good percent of volunteers do.
But if, for example, in rock climbing, they want to help belay and help clients get their gear on, they don’t have to pay anything. If you’re an enthusiastic volunteer with the right attitude, you don’t ever have to pay for anything except your own food.”
Volunteers are trained, both for the sport involved and for working with people with disabilities. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to climb or go on a multiday rafting or canoe trip, this is your chance—not only to do the sport, but also to get personal instruction on how to do it right.
Splore has enough extra gear to provide sleeping bags and backpacks to volunteers who don’t have their own. The preliminary volunteer training is two days. Then you’re asked how often you would like to volunteer: Whether it’s once a week, twice a week or every other week, Splore is happy with whatever works for you. Coltrin is quick to say that volunteers don’t have to be incredibly strong or have experience in the sport. “Age isn’t an issue, either; we have people in high school all the way up to senior citizens,” he says.
But to volunteer, you should be in “reasonable” condition for the outdoors. As an extra “get,” the efforts involved in the experiences will help you be in better shape—and, of course, just being in the wild outdoors gives a mental boost.
You have to take training courses to become a Splore volunteer. May 26 is a rock-climbing session, and canoeing training is set for June 16 in Little Dell Reservoir.
“If a volunteer has never done canoeing, we train them,” Coltrin says. “It’s not too hard, but volunteers get a lot of exercise. You’ll sleep really well, because you’ve been out exerting yourself.”
He adds, “If you’re looking for a way to provide community service, this is a great way to do that. And don’t worry about being in over your head. If you have a fear of water, we would send you down a river without big rapids. Splore takes care of our volunteers, as well as our clients.”
To find out more about Splore and its volunteer programs, vist Splore.org or call 801-484-4128.