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Letter from the CEO: Kathleen Schneeman

Remarkably, summer is over here at Explore Austin! We’re already deep into our 2022 and 2023 school year planning for our monthly Saturday Challenges throughout Austin and the surrounding area. . Looking back over our Summer Wilderness Trips, we traversed numerous miles in June and July. We summited mountains in City of Rocks, Idaho. We paddled 40 miles down the Buffalo River in Arkansas. We took our senior Explorers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to South Lake Tahoe and eluded the fires to enjoy Yosemite. Thirty-two brand new Explorers learned about all kinds of things while at Colorado Bend State Park–setting up camp, cooking outside, paddling, hiking, caving, recognizing the scream of a feral hog and the call of a mourning dove–many for the first time in their lives.

Our summer went incredibly well thanks to your support. Sure, we had crafty raccoons ripping holes in tents in Arkansas and rain for days in Colorado, but we also had Explorers who wrote that they saw the Milky Way for the first time, learned not just how to ride a bike, but also how to mountain bike on steep trails in Colorado, saw the views from the top of the mountain and exclaimed it was “the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen,” those who flew on a plane for the first time, and those who said they made new best friends. We also had a safe and successful summer despite the odds: wildfires, floods,  flight cancellations, and drought meant that conditions were constantly changing. Our Mentors, full time program staff, and Trip Leaders (our part-time guides) showed remarkable adaptability, agility, and courage to keep moving forward, and our Explorers were equipped for a variety of conditions with new gear thanks to community support like yours.

Finally, the commitment of our volunteer Mentors never fails to blow me away. We had a Mentor 7 months pregnant flying across the country, sleeping in a tent, and doing adventurous activities outside to support her team. We had Mentors with major projects pending at work double their efforts prior to departing on their trips so that they would be there to make memories with their Explorers. Thank you to our Mentors for your dedicated service and support of our youth throughout your Summer Wilderness Trips and your six years of service to this program. And to our supporters: thank you for enabling our Mentors and Explorers to attend these transformative backcountry trips free of charge every year! We truly couldn’t do this work without your investment and belief in our mission.

With so much gratitude,

Kathleen Schneeman