It Starts With the Boots

I remember the cold day last January that I sat in the warehouse, unpacking donated hiking boots. I wore the biggest puffy jacket I owned with the hood cinched tight, and I was probably wearing two pairs of pants. But I wasn’t thinking about my cold fingers or the fact that it was snowing outside or my visible breath that hung in the air before me.

As I labeled and inventoried each boot, I was thinking about the participants who would wear them the following summer. I was thinking about the incredible places their feet would carry them, covered in the boots I now held in my hands. I was thinking about the life-altering experiences they might encounter while in the backcountry, away from the distraction and the busyness and the “normal.”

You see, something amazing happens in the backcountry. Carefully built emotional walls begin to come down with every uphill step. Inner-city kids are given the freedom to truly be kids as they laugh and play under the summer sun. A sense of community is fortified around a campfire while stories–their stories–are shared. These moments come together during the backpacking trips Peak 7 coordinates to create a beautiful image of community and challenge and growth.

But it starts with the boots.

It starts with every kid showing up at the warehouse, getting outfitted with the gear necessary for a week in the backcountry. Backpack. Sleeping bag. Boots. It starts with each participant lacing up their shoes and stepping into a journey that is challenging, new, and beautiful. And before all that, it starts with you: the tribe of people who make it all possible through your gifts, donations, and support of what we do.

And the truth is that we simply cannot do it without you. You–our donors and supporters–provide the resources, encouragement, and funding to make these experiences possible for the youth in our communities. Before we venture into the mountains or down the rivers, we rely on you. It starts with the boots.

It starts with you.

-Isabella Santos, Ascent Program Coordinator