Kevin Caslor shares his experience at MEC Outdoor Nation
As Outdoor Nation’s core focus, they hold annual summits around the United States where young adults can come together, make connections, and use the power of brainstorming in order to figure out how to get our generation outside. Founded by the Outdoor Foundation, the event has funded more than 500 youth-inspired projects engaging nearly 200,000 people and has invested $4 million to encourage millennials in America to get active and outside.
With the movement finding success in the States for a number of years, MEC decided to bring it to Canada. The Vancouver summit, running from Sept. 20-21, 2014 was indeed the first Canadian event; with MEC co-ordinator Elyse Curley reminding all 150 attendees that we were akin to guinea pigs on a trial experiment!
I was notified a few weeks after I had applied that I was fortunate enough to have been chosen to attend the summit held at the Cheakamus Centre in Brackendale, B.C. After a scenic and relaxing early-morning coach journey to the seemingly remote centre, we were given Outdoor Nation T-shirts, a wireless clicker, and a well-endowed gift tote. At the risk of sounding cliché, the location and surrounding area was astoundingly tranquil (or was, until 150 excited people showed up) with stunning views and architecture. No doubt that my initial impression was influenced a tad by the warm, cloudless sunny day.
After a light breakfast and the official opening of the summit, we were directed outside by the Cheakamus River, tinted light blue from suspended glacial sediment, for a quick icebreaker. To my slight disappointment, it was not the kind that floats! As you can imagine, it soon grew unavoidably into a mob, with the cacophony that resulted threatening to put my hearing aids out of commission for the foreseeable future. Back inside, we broke off into separate tables for our first brainstorming activity, discussing the barriers and discouragements to people of our generation when it comes to venturing outside. This and the thought-provoking workshops held after yielded a wealth of ideas, and went a long way in guiding our projects along.
By this point, I had already bumped into Becs Hoskins, Power to Be board director and volunteer, and one of the facilitators at the event. When it came time to form groups for our projects, I was amazed at how many people had the same rough idea as I did! Before the summit had wrapped up, our gear-sharing project team, self-identified as the The Wild Salmons, had grown to include 11 like-minded individuals who made my time that much more enjoyable. At the end of the day, which saw us undertake an awesome hike and a campfire hangout, many people had shown an interest in Power To Be, and were eager to learn more about our programs and our cool adaptive equipment. I was surprised how many people had already heard of our organization, but as I reminded myself, Power To Be has grown exponentially since I became involved in 2006! I gave out the email address of the Vancouver and Victoria office, and there may very well be some volunteer recruits.
The private concert by Victoria-based indie duo Jon and Roy was the best way to cap off an incredible day – Becs and I had an incident while transiting a human tunnel, but after the ringing subsided, I don’t know who was laughing hardest! Needless to say, Jon and Roy gained a fan that night. Just as I entered my tent for the night, I glanced up and saw the big dipper as I had never seen it before, twinkling above our encampment on an open field.
The next morning, we were treated to an appetizing breakfast, while everyone was discussing the bear and her cub that was spotted just a short distance from our camp. Again we brainstormed in our groups in order to develop our project vision even more in preparation for presenting it to the rest of the summit, who would then vote on which project was most deserving of the generous grant from MEC. What an incredibly hard decision! There were many creative ideas, and although we weren’t in the top three, our group still had a fantastic time whilst developing a game plan.
The entire experience was eye opening. It was incredible for me to be able to see all these different passions for the outdoor activities that everybody had come together, and yet, we all had a love for the outdoors in common, and by the end, everyone had the same vibe.
Before long, it was time to board the buses back home to Waterfront Station. After group photos and goodbyes (but not for long), I paused for one last moment to take in the unspoilt surroundings. It was time for the long drive back to civilization.
A huge thank you to goes out to Elyse Curley for the opportunity and for her tireless planning, the rest of the peer leaders for keeping us excited and on track, Alanna Ray for suggesting that I join this event, and, of course, all of those attending for some serious laughs and truly memorable times!
– Story shared by Kevin Caslor, Power To Be volunteer and past participant
– Photos taken by Michael Savage
See more photos from the MEC OUTDOOR NATION.