Give a little soul, some charitable soul that is
The Soulstice Festival Saturday at the Truckee Regional Amphitheater is no ordinary outdoor concert.
Besides providing tunes floating in the fresh mountain air, the festival will celebrate outdoor adventures for foster children.
Hosted by the Teacher’s Association for Outdoor and Adventure Education, more commonly known as TAO Education, and Mountain Circle Family Services, the festival’s proceeds will underwrite scholarships to foster children to go kayaking on Lake Tahoe, backpacking in Yosemite or rock climbing on Donner Pass.
The outdoor adventures will benefit the children in a number of ways, physically and emotionally, said Director Shauna Rossington of Mountain Circle Family Services.
“Some [of the children] have never been in the forest, never hiked down a trail, never experienced the wilderness,” Rossington said.
For many of these children, challenging themselves to finally reach the top of a mountain and then gaze out at the expansive view, will affect them in ways that a typical 60-minute counseling session cannot, Rossington said.
TAO Education also believes that outdoor education benefits children physically and mentally. It nurtures self-esteem, team work and communication.
“In the backcountry, you really need to rely on one another,” said Mark Keim, a program director for TAO Education. “It’s a great time to really lean on each other.”
The inspiration for the Soulstice festival came as he soared 200 feet over Squaw Valley on the cable car last year and watched a look of excitement light up the children’s faces, Keim said.
The trip took the children horseback riding, swimming and ice skating at Squaw Valley. The impact the experience had on the children was enough to motivate Keim to reach out further and give the kids more opportunities to leave their troubles behind.
“They really had no other worries when they were on that trip,” said Keim, who also teaches at Forest Charter School. “It really gives them the self-esteem; it really gives them the happiness.”
For children who face a harsh reality of transition, instability and violence, positive experiences are that much more valuable.
Most of Mountain Circle’s foster children come from dysfunctional homes with sexual, physical and drug abuse, Rossington said.
“They’ve had some really traumatic events happen in their lives,” she said about the emotional abuse that some foster children have escaped.
Despite their challenging backgrounds, the children adopt well to positive environments, Rossington said. When they are hiking on a trail and holding casual conversations, Keim and other TAO facilitators are able to break down barriers and reach a safe emotional moment where progress can be made.
“It’s amazing; the children are resilient and they respond very well to safe environments,” Rossington said.
In many cases, local foster children are displaced from the Tahoe Truckee area to Sierra Valley, Portola or Loyalton. Foster care is very limited in the Tahoe Truckee area, Keim said.
“Our goal is really to work with those foster kids to bring them back to the areas they grew up in,” he said. “Allow them to be back in their natural environment.”
Keim gave much credit to the families who care for these children. They are the ones who make it possible for the kids to come on these trips, he said.
In addition to the festival, both organizations applied for a $35,000 grant to establish a two-year program for the foster children. They will find out later this month if they received the money.
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