As we transition into fall and relish the cooler temperatures and vibrant fall color change in Colorado, our Operation: Military Kids Adventure Overnight youth and Adult Survival Overnight participants united for one amazing weekend survival program.
Cottonwood Institute loves offering our Operation: Military Kids programs because it is our chance to give back to military youth and families who sacrifice so much for our country. One student was so excited because had seen just about every episode of Survivorman and was eager to practice the skills he had seen on TV.
Adult participants had spent a fair amount of time outdoors and wanted to test themselves to see if they had what it took to survive in the mountains if they ever got caught out. Students and adults built survival shelters together and then the adults put their shelters to the test by sleeping in them overnight.
We packed a lot of skills and activities into a short weekend, including: survival shelters, survival kits, edible and medicinal plants, nature awareness and tracking games, friction fire, throwing sticks, a stargazing night hike, and we helped knock out an Action Project to help our partners at Cal-Wood Education Center with a fire mitigation project so they can sell firewood that will help support their educational programs.
One Operation: Military Kids parent stated: “Thank you to the incredible directors and organizers over at the Cottonwood Institute for providing such a great camping experience for my family! They really went above and beyond the call of duty on so many levels. They were able to make last minute arrangements to accommodate my two children on the Operation: Military Kids Adventure and they provided much of the gear they needed. A great big hug of gratitude to you both and to the sponsors who made it all possible!”
We look forward to planning more Operation: Military Kids programs in 2013! If you are interested in supporting this program, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Matt Holzmann’s Fundraising Page. Matt is a Cottonwood Institute supporter, Marine, and veteran who is trying to raise enough money to support an Operation: Military Kids program in 2013 and he has raised 21% towards his goal!
In the meantime, check out a slide show of the action by Clicking Here.
Colorado Operation: Military Kids (OMK) is a collaborative outreach initiative between the US Military and Colorado State University Youth Development 4-H to provide support and assistance to military youth and families – on installations and those geographically dispersed National Guard and Reserve families in our communities.
This has certainly been one of Colorado’s hottest summers, but that did not deter the Buckley Airforce Base Youth Group from going out to the woods for a weekend of adventure and learning with the Cottonwood Institute. On June 23rd they departed to the Colorado Lions Camp and Conference Center outside of Woodland Park near Colorado Springs to brave the heat and wander the woods.
After setting up camp, the group dove quickly into learning about fire skills and shelter building. Fire became a big topic on this course, as the kids witnessed the beginning of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire. They watched the column of smoke grow and billow, coming face to face with the knowledge that fire can affect anyone, anytime, anywhere. Knowing their location was safe from the fire, the students were eager to learn more about nature and survival.
The afternoon brought on a two hour exploration starting in the ponderosa pine forest and winding down into a ravine to a boggy, willow-filled environment. This became the highlight of the course. The students found some intriguing bones and spent a good deal of time asking questions and speculating as to what had happened, what animal they were looking at, what gender it was, why it died, etc. Nature awareness was also brought into play as the group observed and identified the different plants in the changing environment.
To wind down the weekend’s events, each group member shared a story, leading into unique and interesting conversations, including a discussion on what it means to connect to nature. Although the course was short, the adventures, lessons, and friendships built will last forever. What more can you ask for?
We are very thankful to all of the donors and supporters who made this course possible for these military youth, especially the Markham Vineyard’s Mark of Distinction Program, which helped fund this project. But don’t take our word for it, check out this short thank you video from our students:
Written by Kelly Muller. Edited by April Pishna.
Here at Cottonwood Institute, we are all about teamwork. On a pleasantly warm fall evening in October at Cherry Creek Reservoir, Clark Patton from CI teamed up with a group of campers from Buckley Air Force Base’s Youth Programs for a couple of hours of fun and fire skills. As a guest instructor with a team of highly skilled military men, it was an honor to be invited to their youth camp for a survival overview.
While the time was short, the students learned basic survival priorities and even had time for a torch-lit night hike. Clark had everyone laughing and wanting more by the time the night was over. No worries, Cottonwood Institute and Buckley Air Force Base will be teaming up again next spring. We will work together to implement a weekend survival course giving everyone more time to not only learn and practice survival skills, but also time to laugh and enjoy the outdoors.
This summer, the Cottonwood Institute and Operation: Military Kids teamed up for the Operation Military Kids Family Survival Skills Overnight. In July, a team of students, accompanied by a number of parents, ventured up into Colorado Lions Camp near Woodland Park, Colorado for a weekend of outdoor exploration and fun.
This trip equipped its participants with good, practical knowledge about surviving in the wilderness, and also gave everyone an opportunity to get to know each other in an environment that facilitated a sense of community and teamwork. Surviving in the outdoors alone was a new and enriching experience for most of the students and their parents. Some people seemed a little hesitant at first, but it wasn’t long before the group’s avid interest and enthusiasm for the outdoors became apparent, as well as their remarkable ability to connect and relate to one another from day one, despite having never met before.
Students, instructors, and parents alike focused their time and energy on learning new survival skills and discussing how to respect the land they were staying on. Course participants learned how to make one-match fires, and even got to try their hand at using bow drills. They also learned how to build debris shelters, an activity that some students found to be so enjoyable, they wanted to try constructing shelters in their own backyards.
For some, one of the best parts of the trip was simply having an opportunity to be alone in the wilderness. Finding sit spots, a reflective exercise where each participant finds a place to sit in the woods where they can be alone with the stillness of their surroundings, became an activity of special importance for many of the students. “My rose was the sit moments—just being able to sit and listen,” said TJ, one of the students who attended the course.
For others the most valuable aspect of the trip was being able to get to know other people. At the end of the weekend, one participant took time during their closing circle to mention all of the “roses,” or strengths, she had observed in each person attending the course. “Her words were a great example of how well this group got along, and they also showed how you can learn a lot from other people,” said Madeline Bachner, an instructor on the course.
“We so appreciated the opportunity to go out on a survival adventure sponsored by the Cottonwood Institute,” said Channon, a course participant, in an e-mail to the Cottonwood Institute. “Your founder and donors should be very pleased with how your organization is helping to nurture a love of the outdoors and the confidence to enjoy it as only a true camping experience can provide. My husband, who is deployed to Afghanistan, also wants me to pass on his gratitude for getting his girls up to the Colorado mountains this summer. It’s non-profit groups like yours that take up the slack when our troops are off serving and away from family.”
To view pictures from the course, click here.
On April 9th, 2011 the Cottonwood Institute made the trek to Divide, Colorado to join Welcome Home Warrior for their annual retreat to give back to those in the military who have spent time abroad. Families had a chance to reunite, relax, and learn some new skills. Not only did Cottonwood Institute teach hands-on survival skills, including: outdoor shelters, nature awareness, and primitive fire building, but we also had time for some engaging, fun games bringing thrills and grins to all ages.
We had a great time with the families who joined us for the afternoon. The kids enjoyed the games and activities and parents were grateful to see their children engaged with our teachings. Golden Bell Camp and Conference Center offered a beautiful setting where we found an aspen grove to teach and play in. Despite high winds, everyone benefited from the afternoon outdoors.
A big thanks goes out to Donna Finicle from Welcome Home Warriors for organizing the event and to the families who chose to spend the afternoon with us. We were honored to be a part of this!
This article was written by Madeline Bachner and edited by April Pishna.
We experienced a new twist in the evolution of the Operation: Military Kids Essential Survival Skills course – family participation! 10 folks from 4 families, converged at the Colorado Lions Camp to challenge their carnivorous and cooperative edges. We learned about survival priorities, wild edibles, sustainable harvesting, camp craft, fire craft, stalking and wilderness walking. We were even treated with deer venison – Yum! We learned how to work together and make decisions as a group, and how to take these skills back to our everyday lives.
Check out our newest course: Operation: Military Kids Family Survival Skills Overnight, July 16-17, 2011 and stay tuned about what will we learn this time.
Click Here to view a slideshow of the activities and relive the adventures of the weekend!
This article was written by Jason Lawrence and edited by April Pishna.
The local fire ban didn’t stop this crew of weekend wilderness warriors from igniting a passion for the outdoors. Cottonwood Institute instructors, Darren Silver, Jason Lawrence, and Aleyna Porreca delivered an action-packed course for children and parents of military families through a collaboration with Operation Military Kids and Colorado Lions Camp.
A fine mix of fun and skills set the platinum standard for this course as we filled our days with survival priorities, shelter-building, stalking, sit-spotting, service, stewardship, and some tasty grub, including a rare treat of fresh venison!
“I think it was a huge success and should be offered again for military kids. I also asked all the kids what they thought and they all loved it,” commented an Operation Military Kids chaperone who joined us for the first ever OMK Essential Survival Skills course. “I wish it was longer,” said 10 year-old Little John accompanied by military dad, Big John. “Do you offer this for adults?” questioned two enthusiastic parents…
While we quoted General George C. Marshall before dinner Saturday evening: “There’s no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit,” we’d like to thank all of the generous sponsors and courageous participants for making tracks with us! Specifically, we would like to thank Operation Military Kids, Colorado Lions Camp, The Kenneth King Foundation, Canvas and Cocktails, and the overwhelming support we received from our donors who made this project possible.
To check out a slide show of the course, Click Here.
This article was written by Jason Lawrence and edited by Ford Church.