Letter from the parent of a Trail Crew & Wilderness Voyage participant:
Proud doesn't begin to describe my feelings when my son related stories of his OA Trail Crew adventure. In a short two weeks he had an experience that literally transformed his life.
Rob has always been serious about Scouting. He loves camping and the outdoors. After election into the Order of the Arrow, Rob wouldn't miss a service project or a Lodge meeting. Applying for OA Trail Crew was the next natural step in cheerful service and high adventure.
During his trek, his mother worried constantly. I even became concerned when he didn't call after finishing the work week and leaving for the trek. Finally the call came and a tired—but happy—voice said, "had a great time, will tell you about it when I get home, bye."
The ride home from the airport was something I'll always remember. The car had the strong odor of clothes that had been worn for a week of strenuous activity. His uniform was wrinkled after the long flight. His face looked like someone who had been in the sun too long. But his broad smile wouldn't quit and his voice was filled with the excitement of someone who had been to the moon and back!
He told me of the work week and how difficult it was—yet how much he enjoyed it. They had moved boulders, cut trees and shoveled dirt. They built a small section of trail that would be used for many years to come and they were felt a great sense of accomplishment. They slid down snow on shovels, watched fireworks on top of Baldy and experienced the beauty of the Philmont backcountry on a trek that was unique to their crew.
He spoke of the quiet time they had for reflection. In that time he was able to recognize his own strengths and weaknesses. As he spoke, the increase in maturity and self-confidence was unmistakable. He had grown from a Boy Scout into a young man—who understood more about life and knew himself better than before.
I didn't think anything could top the Philmont experience until this last summer when he signed up for OA Wilderness Voyage at Northern Tier. His return home was deja vu—the same broad smile, the same excitement about building a trail, the same smelly clothes. The trek experience was different, but the spiritual growth and increased confidence were unmistakable.
If there's ever any question about the value of these programs, or if there's any question if we should encourage more young men to participate, consider my son who says—without hesitation—that OA Trail Crew and OA Wilderness Voyage were THE BEST TIMES OF HIS LIFE!