“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” -John Muir
Experiencing nature as a child is a valuable gift I had the privilege to receive growing up in Western Pennsylvania. Clarion, where my four siblings and I called home, has a rich connection to the it’s rivers and surrounding forests. Now that I live in Philadelphia I can appreciate how fortunate I was and how my relationship with nature, although changed, still is apart of who I am.
In the summer of 2008 I got a job as a rock climbing guide in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Fayetteville is home to some of the best whitewater and rock climbing on the east coast and is better known as the New River Gorge. That summer was a wet one. For the first few months it seemed to rain almost everyday which made for terrible climbing, but excellent rafting and kayaking. Over those early summer months the other guides and I spent many days on the river and grew to understand the culture that went along with that way of living. For some, being on the river was a complete lifestyle. It was what defined their existence and personality. For others is was merely a vacation from the daily grind with family and friends. This spectrum of participation was amazing to see first hand because of how a shared experience could bring all these groups together into a community. A community that adopted myself that summer and showed me the true spirit and positive power possible in outdoor recreation. The fall came and with my renewed passion I went back to school at Penn State to pursue a major in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Management with a specific focus in outdoor adventure recreation.
Throughout the final years of my college education I grew increasingly more active in my local outdoor community. I was leading rafting and climbing trips for the university as well as honing my own technical abilities on the rock and the water as a leader with my own group of friends. Everything I did was rewarding which only drew me in closer. Writing this now it only makes we wonder where I would be if I hadn’t started playing music. I used to see myself in Argentina or Canada spending everyday on the mountain, unlocking some ancient person I was meant to be. I idolized the skin of the climber turned to leather by the sun and his rag tag belongings beaten by the rock. I wanted the dirt and the grit and the freedom. I still feel this urge now. The urge to drop it all and leave everything for the woods. This is a feeling I embrace like an old friend and welcome its ghost as a gift of my fortunate past. Everything I have accomplished has lead me to where I am today and to the unique organization, First Descents.
“First Descents offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.” (firstdescents.org)
Through a string of friends and connections we were introduced to this rapidly growing Colorado based organization. I couldn’t have imagined a better union between the outdoor person I was with the musician I have become. To celebrate this relationship KGB is performing after the Rock and Roll half marathon this Sunday. I hope you now have a better understanding of what has drawn me and the rest of the band to this organization. It is a deep and personal connection I am proud to showcase. This Sunday will surly be one to remember and I hope to share that experience with everyone.