At first, the 20 or so young people were nervous. As they climbed into the rubber rafts that would be their ride for the next four hours, some laughed nervously while others double and triple-checked their life jackets. These kids-teenagers, all of them-had never floated a river before. They were here at Chili Bar on the South Fork of the American River on a bright blue foothills morning because Pat and I had broached an idea to the Ticket To Dream Foundation. Our station had recently partnered up with the organization, which provides services and opportunities to foster children. The brainchild of former Sleep Train founder and CEO Dale Carlson, TTD offers services, experiences and opportunities for foster youth they might not otherwise have. TTD also acts as a facilitator, connecting foster youth with adults who want to help them. Volunteering, mentoring, donations, adopting; however a person in interested in helping, TTD can make it happen.
In late winter, 2018, Pat and I were talking to TTD’s president and executive director, Gina Davis about what KNCI could offer that might interest the kids, and rafting came up. We’ve both rafted the south fork of the American several times with a guide who’s since become a good friend, Tom Freer, a teacher by trade but who’s guided in summertime for years with the American River Touring Association or ARTA, as they’re known. We reached out to Tom and he loved the idea right away. We put him in touch with Gina and a few months later, here we were, getting ready to float a beautiful warm canyon on a cool ribbon of blue.
And now we’re about to do it again. Our 2nd annual raft trip is this Saturday, and apparently word got out that we didn’t lose anyone to the white water of “meat grinder” last year, so now we have 38 foster youth going. Davis says experiences like this, especially for foster teenagers, can be a game changer.
“You could be creating rafters for life!” she laughs, “…or just inspiring them to get out in nature, or inspiring them to try something–try something they’ve never been able to do.”
Most of this weekend’s rafter are older teens, Davis says, who will be aging out of the system within a few years.
“..and they’re gonna need to start making their own choices. And so being able to try these new outlets and experiences is really vital.”
As fun and rewarding as this float trip is, Davis points out it’s not even a ripple in the number of foster youth who could benefit from similar experiences.
“There’s thousands and thousands of teens, 20,000 in California alone. So, whether you volunteer your time, whether you become a mentor, or whether you foster or adopt, or whether you donate, you help provide these types of experiences.”
Wanna get involved and help these young people experience fun, educational and/or rewarding life events most of us take for granted? It’s easy-go to their website (click here) for everything you need to know.
And as for those reluctant rafters at the beginning our trip last year? Four hours later they whooping, hollering, high-fiving with paddles and wide, confident smiles reaching from ear to ear. As one young man put it, “I didn’t even know I could do something like this!”
And that’s what it’s all about.
If you’d like to hear more about Ticket To Dream and learn how you can help these kids grow up to be happy and well-adjusted, click below