L.L. Bean announces Outdoor Hero award recipients

Posted Sept. 02, 2011, at 12:13 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 02, 2011, at 3:04 p.m.
Carol and Bob Leone
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Carol and Bob Leone
Dave Getchell
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Dave Getchell
Sue Baudet
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Sue Baudet
Douglas Dear
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Douglas Dear
Sylvie Fadrhonc
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Sylvie Fadrhonc
Katie Zanto
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Katie Zanto
Elizabeth Bates
Photo Courtesy of L.L. Bean
Elizabeth Bates

FREEPORT — L.L.Bean has announced the recipients of our 2011 Outdoor Heroes Award.

The winners will recieve a $5,000 grant towards their 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Maine-based retailer said, in announcing the winners, “We are proud to support individuals who dedicate themselves to outdoor conservation and education.

Here are the winners announced Friday.

Carol and Bob Leone of Edgecomb, Maine, have inspired teens to connect to the outdoors in memory of their daughter.

In July 2005, Carol’s and Bob’s lives changed dramatically when their 15-year-old daughter Sara died in a car accident. While coping with their loss, Carol and Bob searched for an opportunity to improve the lives of other children. “About a year after the accident, we felt we needed, in our lives, to make a difference,” says Bob.

The Leones had always spent time as a family in the outdoors and both of their daughters had been active in their high school outing club. Bob and Carol saw profound benefits to the girls’ well-being from the experience. In 2006, Carol and Bob founded Teens to Trails, an organization dedicated to helping kids spend more time outside through high school outing clubs.

They started by contacting area high schools and offering assistance in starting an outing club. “I assumed most students had the same type of access to outdoor clubs that my daughters had,” says Carol. “But we could count on our hands the amount of schools that claimed to have one.”

They called 215 high schools in Maine and began creating links that soon became a strong chain of support. Most schools didn’t have an outing club — and some didn’t even know what one was. As they spoke to area schools, friends and neighbors, the idea started to catch on. With a growing network of outdoor-oriented businesses, Registered Maine Guides, land managers and more, the support for their cause came to life. Thanks to Bob and Carol’s efforts over the past four years, over 40 schools have started an outing club.

Teens to Trails also offers support to outing club advisors with weekend workshops. They plan “Outing Club Rendezvous” which bring outing clubs from across Maine together for a weekend outdoors. The goal is to share ideas and foster a sense of community among Maine outing clubs. Bob and Carol also offer “Sara’s Scholarship” in memory of their daughter. The award offers two area teens a full scholarship to attend a three-week summer wilderness experience with the Chewonki Foundation.

The success of Teens to Trails has encouraged the Leones to do even more. Carol and Bob believe that what they’re doing has the potential to spread even farther than Maine. “We’d love to link outing clubs all across the country together,” says Carol. “It’s a dream off in the distance now – but we’re going to stick around as long as we can to see it happen.”

To learn more about Teens to Trails, visit teenstotrails.org.

Douglas Dear, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, LaPlata, Md., is an advocate for the healing effects of fly fishing on wounded soldiers.

While stopping by his local fly-fishing shop in 2007, Douglas Dear heard about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), an organization helping disabled and wounded veterans and active-duty soldiers rehabilitate both physically and emotionally through fly fishing. The organization was looking for a spot to host an event. Douglas got in touch with the PHWFF and offered his farm’s private trout stream for their next outing. “My grandfather was a West Point grad and served in World War II — so I’ve always had the utmost respect for the military,” says Douglas.

Founded in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the help of Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers, PHWFF assists in the physical and emotional rehabilitation of military personnel through fly fishing and fly tying. The organization partners with federations across the country to offer local, ongoing support to area soldiers. “Our program is inclusive rather than exclusive. Naturally, many of our participants were wounded or injured in war, but others were hurt while on active duty at base camps or at home,” says Ed Nicholson, founder of PHWFF. Many participants also suffer from post-traumatic shock, and the program is particularly effective in lessening their emotional turmoil.

The program has reached over 2,000 soldiers since its start. At this year’s Fly Tie Event, PHWFF’s fifth annual fly fishing competition held at Dear’s farm, a PHWFF participant bravely spoke about losing his arm while on active duty. Everyone at the dinner was moved by the impact the program had on one soldier – including Douglas. “Here was a guy who was severely depressed. When he first started with us, he couldn’t tie a fly. Once he figured it out, he started challenging himself to try other things. Now he tells us there isn’t anything he can’t do with one hand.”

“For more information about Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, visit projecthealingwaters.org.

For Sylvie Fadrhonc, Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, Telluride, Col., a life-changing injury turned an outdoor guide into an advocate for bringing the disabled outdoors.

Months after beginning her outdoor career in Colorado as a guide and field instructor, Sylvie was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Not willing to give up her passion for the outdoors, she re-learned how to ski, bike and rock climb using adaptive equipment. Her realization that she could still actively participate in the outdoors allowed her to pursue her dreams and led her to share this opportunity with others. She brought this enthusiasm to bear in Telluride, CO, where she works with the disabled community at the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program (TASP).

The first thing you notice when looking at recent photos of Sylvie hiking, skiing and camping, is her big smile. Her positive attitude beams from every image. It’s obvious that she does not focus on obstacles. Even while still in the hospital, she looked for a way to ski that season. “My brother came to see me and told me not to worry, I’d still be able to ski,” she says. “At the time I thought, great but I have to figure out how to sit up first.” Less than four months later, Sylvie took her first adaptive ski lesson. “The doctors didn’t advise me to do it, but I was missing one of the best snow years in history so I had to get out there,” she says.

Less than a year after her accident, Sylvie contacted the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program (TASP), who welcomed her on staff as a volunteer coordinator. Over the course of her time with TASP, Sylvie has touched the lives of hundreds in the Telluride community and devoted herself to promoting the outdoors for the disabled.

She helped initiate the first ever TASP Alaska Adventure for four adaptive athletes in conjunction with Mountain Trip Guides. Over the course of 10 days, Sylvie and her fellow participants went mountaineering, ski touring and salmon fishing across Alaska. This “trip of a lifetime” has become an annual event and each year the trip coordinators get requests to increase the challenges – this year the athletes will summit Mount Dickey in the Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier.

Sylvie also helped create a program to spread disability awareness among fifth and sixth grade students in the community in order to help promote acceptance in area schools. “Many of these kids come out and volunteer with disabled kids their own age once the program is finished. It’s powerful to see that happen,” says Sylvie.

For more information about the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, please visit tellurideadaptivesports.org.

For Elizabeth MacGregor Bates, Wonalancet Out Door Club, Sandwich, N.H., retirement was just the beginning for this dedicated “Over the Hill” hiker and conservationist.

There are many theories on how to lead a long, productive life, but Bates, 92, has found her formula: hiking and making the outdoors accessible to all. For the past 30 years, as a member of the Wonalancet Out Door Club, she and her fellow “Over the Hill Hikers” have been leading conservation efforts to protect hundreds of acres near New Hampshire’s White Mountains and construct miles of trails for public recreation. “There is nothing she’d rather do than be outdoors,” says her daughter Connie Crooker.

In 1981, “Lib” and her husband had settled into retirement in Sandwich. Lib grew up hiking in the area, and her father “Red Mac” MacGregor was one of the first hut masters on the Appalachian Trail. When she overheard a group of local women talking about hiking, she naturally asked if she could join. Lib suggested to the group that they begin climbing 4,000 footers, working off an Appalachian Mountain Club list.

To many, hiking 4,000-foot peaks may not be their idea of retirement, but Lib encouraged her new friends to think big … and high. Her encouragement, leadership and talent for organizing groups became apparent. Since then, Lib and over 100 retirees in her area have gone climbing every Tuesday and refer to themselves as the “Over the Hill Hikers,” members of The Wonalancet Out Door Club. The members affectionately call Lib their den mother.

Her idea of sharing the outdoors with others also led Lib to help conserve 2,000 acres of land along lakes, ponds and farms in her area. When the state gave the Sandwich money for conservation efforts in the late 1980s, Lib proposed the development of a hiking trail through town. Fred Lavigne, a member of the Wonalancet Out Door Club, recalls, “Lib would go out with a chain saw, a gift from her husband Charlie, and just cut her way through the woods, walking until she found great spots for the trail to pass through. It takes someone like Lib to keep projects like this going.”

Volunteers also built the Bearcamp River Trail, a project spearheaded by Lib, over the course of six years. It runs 18 miles long. “I still keep an eye on the trail today and make sure we maintain it,” says Lib. Lib’s husband Charlie passed away in 1994 and Lib and her fellow hikers constructed a footbridge named “Charlie’s Bridge” in his memory. Last summer Charlie’s Bridge became unsafe for people to use. She hopes her next effort will be to rally her hiking cohorts and replace the 17-year-old structure.

Though Lib can no longer hike “the big ones,” she continues to spend most of her time outdoors, especially perched on the hill in her backyard that her family calls Mount Lib. Even when she isn’t on hikes, Lib continues to meet up with her fellow hikers every week. “This group absolutely made my retirement,” she says.

For more information on The Wonalancet Out Door Club, visit wodc.org.

Katie Zanto, Truckee, Calif., is an innovative educator who blends the outdoors with literacy training.

Fueled by a great dedication to the environment and education, Zanto founded Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC), an innovative program that integrates wilderness challenges with literacy and leadership curriculum, and raises the aspirations of California high school students to think beyond graduation.

ARC has helped hundreds of teens from immigrant families improve their reading and writing skills and experience the outdoors for the first time.

With a Masters degree from Stanford University in Curriculum Development and over 10 years’ experience as an Outward Bound instructor, Katie saw a unique opportunity to link literacy development with outdoor experiences for high school students whose second language was English. Many of these students had never experienced hiking, camping or even riding a bike in the outdoors. Katie believed that the confidence that outdoor challenges offer would provide fertile ground for furthering a student’s literacy education.

And her belief has paid off. Seven years since its start, ARC summer program participants have achieved a 92 percent passing level of the High School Exit Exam (compared to 81 percent in the rest of the district) and college enrollment is at 77 percent (compared to 66 percent of Latinos nationwide). The majority of ARC students who attend college are often the first in their families to do so. “Though it sounds cliché, this program changes lives,” says Jennifer Gurecki, Director of ARC. “Our students come in thinking that college isn’t even in their future – and when they leave they’re on the path for it.”

Thanks to Katie and the team at ARC, teens have access to programs like a 40-day summer course and weekend retreats that combine English curriculum, journaling, public speaking and poetry with backpacking, kayaking and rafting. “Some of these kids and their families had zero experience with nature, so it was a scary thought to both the kids and their parents,” explains Katie.

“Katie has the ability to say, ‘Let’s do this’ and it pushes everyone around her to raise the bar and go beyond where we’d normally stop on our own,” says Suzanne Lippuner, who serves on the advisory council for ARC.

Katie’s passion for using the wilderness as an alternative learning environment gives area teens the confidence to strive for more. “At the end of one of our first outings, one of the students told us that being outdoors helped her find out who she really was,” says Jennifer.

“When we talk about the impact Katie has had, she inspires them to recognize their potential.”

To find our more information about Adventure Risk Challenge, visit arcprogram.org.

Two of the five finalists in the Heroes Award included two Maine icons, Sue Baudet of Bangor and Dave Getchell Sr., of Portland.

Beaudet, a devoted Girl Scouts volunteer and teacher for over 50 years, became a Brownie in 1958 with one goal in mind: to explore the outdoors. Her family was not outdoorsy, but she took the initiative to join her local troop. The experience provided a way for her to connect with nature and ultimately guided her towards a lifelong passion.

An outdoor recreation professor at University of Maine at Presque Isle, Sue has inspired her students for decades. But some of her most important work in outdoor recreation has been as a volunteer for the Girl Scouts. “The Scouts have given me so many opportunities that I always knew I’d give back to them as a volunteer,” says Sue.

Sue shares her outdoor skills with her Girl Scout community in many ways, all with equal enthusiasm. One day you might find her leading a hike on Mount Katahdin or teaching kayaking, another day instructing skiers at the Nordic Heritage Center. Sue has worked for the Girl Scouts all over the world. She was a climbing and ski instructor at the Girl Scouts Chalet in Switzerland, a canoe guide in Canada and an instructor at the National Center West in Wyoming.

Getchell is a land conservationist and founder of the first public water trails in the United States, the Maine Island Trail, administered by the Maine Island Trail Association. The first association of its kind in the country, MITA has since charted the course for other water trails nationwide.

When asked to describe what makes Maine unique, many people think of the rugged coast dotted with hundreds of small islands, many of them wild. But it was not until the mid 1980s that this iconic natural wonder became the focus of dedicated conservation and recreation efforts. The state of Maine asked the nonprofit Island Institute, along with Getchell’s help, to survey Maine’s state-owned islands and identify which islands had the potential to support land recreation.

It didn’t take long before he looked beyond the trails and proposed something new: a recreational water trail that would connect the islands and make them accessible to sailors, kayakers and other boaters. The water trail would allow small boats to dock at the islands and the passengers to enjoy them for the day or camp overnight.

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