To the editor:
I grew up in Paul Smiths knowing I wanted to be a wilderness therapist, before even knowing such a thing like wilderness therapy existed. I imagined a place where teenagers and their families would come to heal - envisioning the Adirondacks as the ideal place for families to reconnect and forgive.
Fast-forward 15 years to the joy I felt when finding myself being offered a job at Adirondack Leadership Expeditions as a wilderness therapist! I had found a dynamic job and a place that ultimately became like home for so many of us employed at ALE. Since being hired six years ago, that feeling has been reinforced again and again. ALE has been a meaningful place to work but also a "family" to countless employees, students and families entrusting us with their teens. I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by an amazing, dedicated, professional group of people offering support, love, guidance and compassion to adolescents facing crises, loss, trauma, substance abuse and/or mental illness. We grew from a small-time operation to a finely tuned organization. We served more than 1,000 families - that's a lot of hiking, tears, stories, memories, mistakes made and lessons learned! The experiences we've shared will never be lost; our lives and our students' and families' lives have been forever changed.
The work we did couldn't have happened without the support from our communities and local businesses. Our heartfelt thanks to the following: Paul Smith's College and Visitor Interpretive Center, Brighton Mini-Mart, New York State Troopers Troop B, Adirondack Medical Center, Mountain Medical, Department of Health, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, M.C. Motors, Dr. Pond, Nori's Village Market, Lakeview Deli, Compass Printing, Empire Youth Services, Bear Essentials, The Shamrock, Jeffrey "Launchpad" Murray, John Viscome, Blue Moon Cafe, Aldi, Dr. Michael Small, Bean-To, Mark Manske, Northwoods Engineering and the town of Franklin. Thank you for trusting us, allowing us to do our work, keeping us and our students safe, challenging us to look more carefully at our protocols, supporting us, rooting us on, and providing food, services and care.
The Adirondacks will always offer a healing space to anyone fortunate enough to breathe the open air, bold enough to shout at the skies, and brave enough to look deeply within.