Keyword Exclusive - More Summer Experiences
Run in your first race at age 62, visit Alaska, eat lunch 6,000 feet high, go inside Saudi Arabia, trade places with folks from England, travel with the Convoy of Hope, help others realize their potential, and more. These are just some of the adventures awaiting as you read more of the entries we received in our Unique Summer Experiences contest. So, what are you doing this summer?
Gary Owens, Monticello: Running for his life
“Was it really me, at the age of 62, running in my first competitive race with a stent implant holding one of the major arteries of my heart open?”
“I was acutely aware of the pounding of sneakers and laborious breathing around me as I ran along in the Clinton County Foothills Festival 5K Run last summer. I had to pinch myself. Was it really me, at the age of 62, running in my first competitive race with a stent implant holding one of the major arteries of my heart open?
“Before this stent was placed at age 59, I had never run over a mile in my life. After spending 33 years teaching in a high school classroom, where many days my most strenuous exercise was picking up a pencil, the road to this level of physical activity was hard and many times painful. I jogged along, passing a few, speaking or nodding to the ones I met who had already made the turn-around and headed back. But on that day, I didn’t even notice the pain of stiff knees or ankles.
“The most exciting part of this summer event came as I approached the finish line and heard sounds of friends and family yelling cheers of encouragement for a last-minute surge and faster time.
“Even though I won a first-place trophy in my age category that day, those who knew me best knew that I had a far greater reason for that run — one that surpassed the sounds of the cheerleaders at the finish line and the trophy that stands on my shelf. This summer event may only be the first of many more runs, but none will ever be a more significant milestone.”
Mignon Colley, Grayson: Enjoying lunch atop a 6,000-plus-foot mountain
“They say the trail will change you in many ways. I agree with that statement.”
“I am a 38-year-old mother, wife, and grandmother. On April 5, 2007, I left Springer Mountain, Georgia, and backpacked 2,175 miles to Katahdin, Maine. I finished my hike on September 9.
“It was a dream I’d had for a long time, and that dream became a reality this year. I went over the peak of 250-plus mountains and skirted around many more. Climbs and descents of the trail are around 91 miles, the equivalent of going from seal level to the summit of Mt. Everest and back more than 16 times. The views were breathtaking, and there is nothing like lunch on top of a 6,000-plus-foot mountain.
“When I first started this adventure I assumed it would be like hiking a trail at the lake. I was wrong. Many times I had to use my hands to climb up rocks to complete this trail. My life was in danger at least two times, and the Lord led me to safety — once from a fall that almost took me over a cliff, and again from a bad storm in the White Mountains in New Hampshire with freezing rain and 81-mile-per-hour winds. When I left Georgia I was scared because I had never camped alone, but by the time I got halfway, I was camping alone and even hiking after dark. They say the trail will change you in many ways. I will agree with that statement. You can read my journals on my Web site at www.mignon.info.”
Amy Flanagan, Cecilia: Viewing sights few ever see
“I walked away with a renewed appreciation for my own country and for the simple freedoms that I have taken for granted.”
“In April 2007, I had the opportunity to enjoy summer weather by traveling with other educators across the nation to Saudi Arabia. While Kentucky was still experiencing a late frost, landscaped by barren trees with only the potential for full bloom, Saudi Arabia was enjoying warm, balmy weather with temperatures in the low- to mid-90s.
“Co-sponsored by the Institute of International Education and Saudi Aramco, we were able to witness firsthand the kingdom’s economy, education system, oil industry, religion, and government. This was incredible simply for the mere fact that tourism here is forbidden, with the exception of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.
“I was able to talk with Saudis, discussing topics such as women’s rights, religious freedoms, and marriage and family issues—even the War on Terror. One special highlight was visiting the ‘help center’ in Jeddah, a school for students with special needs. Here I interacted with students, read aloud to them, and even shared copies of my favorite children’s books.
“I came away from this experience realizing that though our cultures, histories, religious practices, and names are different, we share more likenesses than differences. We share the same joys and concerns—family, work, school, and world events. I was treated with respect and generosity, and I came away from the experience with my mind opened to this Arabian world. Most importantly, I walked away with a renewed appreciation for my own country and for the simple freedoms that I have taken for granted.”
Jan Culp, Bowling Green: Trading places with horse owners across the pond
“Everything from grocery shopping and outdoor markets to finding the right bus or train was a challenging adventure.”
“Having never been off the continent of North America, our unique summer adventure began with a flight to the United Kingdom to trade farms with the owners of the only Rocky Mountain horse farm in England (Rocky Mountain is a native Kentucky horse breed). Our hosts picked us up from the airport, gave us a tour of their farm, then flew to the U.S. to stay at our farm in Bowling Green.
“Upon our arrival at the farm, our hostess had an English tea waiting. We loved the scones with white cream (like cream cheese but sweeter) smothered in a raspberry topping. This tasty beginning launched the next 25 days of exploration on horseback and on foot of the village and countryside of West Wycombe, and the cities of London, Oxford, Warwick, and Stratford-on-Avon.
“The farm is located on the estate of the Earl of Dashwood—called West Wycombe Park—40 miles northwest of London. The estate was gorgeous, with stone bridges, thatched roof houses, lush green fields, stately forests, and a long history. While there, we watched the filming of a period movie for the BBC.
“Everything from grocery shopping and outdoor markets to finding the right bus or train was a challenging adventure. The highlight of our trip was a performance by the Queen’s Horse Guard of music, marching, and cannon fire called Beating Retreat. The sweetest sound was hearing the customs official after the long flight back say, ‘Welcome home.’”
Sarah Teegarden, Flemingsburg: Giving and getting the gift of hope
“Every person I met throughout the summer challenged me to better myself and realize how blessed I am to be alive.”
“This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to work with Teen Mission USA out of Lexington. The summer became the best learning experience of my life.
"The first part of my summer was spent working at church camps. I met a 12-year-old girl who inspired me with her love for people. She was already involved in helping people who are persecuted across the world. She gave me hope for the youth of our nation.
“I also had the chance to go on three mission trips. In Beattyville, we helped a less fortunate family repair their damaged house. They were so gracious and joyful, it humbled me.
“My second trip was to Pascagoula, Mississippi, to help with Katrina relief. The devastation that still remains is heartbreaking, but the spirit of the people gives hope to the situation. We presented a finished house to an elderly man who was just amazed that someone had taken time to help him.
“My last trip was to Tanzania, Africa. Our group worked with churches, schools, and orphanages to help in any way that we could. I met families in levels of poverty that none could imagine and yet they were more thankful for the gift of life than most.
“Every person I met throughout the summer challenged me to better myself and realize how blessed I am to be alive. I have now decided to work in medical missions to help share the hope that was shown to me.”
Samantha Stroub, Cynthiana: Traveling with a purpose
“If people could catch the vision that Convoy of Hope has to change this world, possibly we could actually do it.”
“This summer I had a unique summer experience working with Convoy of Hope, an organization out of Springfield, Missouri. Convoy of Hope is a nonprofit organization in the United States and around the world, providing disaster relief, supply lines, and outreach to the poor and hurting. Its mission is to transform communities, one life at a time. I was able to be a part of it throughout the whole summer. I was able to travel as an intern with them to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Indianapolis, Indiana.
“Throughout those outreaches, we saw more than 12,000 people come through our site and receive many types of services such as haircuts, health care, free lunches, and eye exams. Each family left with two bags of groceries to take home. As each family left they were met by volunteers to ask if they needed prayer for anything, and a simple message of Christ was presented to them as local churches showed they were there to help once the outreach had left town.
“This experience changed my life. I realized the magnitude of hurting people around our nation. I felt like I was actually making a difference in these communities, and it was a fulfilling moment in my life—something that I hope to be involved in again. If people could catch the vision that Convoy of Hope has to change this world, possibly we could actually do it.”
Kate Sabin, Hopkinsville: Learning about the marine environment
“This experience was great because I learned a lot about marine science. I also met different people from around the country.”
“My unique experience took place June 2007 on Dauphin Island, Alabama. My interest in marine biology and the lack of an ocean in Hopkinsville led me to participate in a marine science summer course at the Sea Lab.
“The weekly highlight was fieldwork on the research vessel A.E. Verrill. The first trip focused on oceanography. One interesting activity was measuring salinity. The second trip found us collecting invertebrates and vertebrates that dwell near or at the bottom of the gulf. Deep-sea fishing was our final boat activity. We later grilled the fish we caught.
Classes were taught almost daily. Some of the things we learned about were beach and dune ecology, plankton communities, and salt marshes. We took tests once a week, so most of our free time was spent studying. We took two field trips. One field trip was to New Orleans to visit the Aquarium of the Americas. The other trip was to St. Andrew’s Bay, Florida, to go snorkeling to observe marine life and to have fun, too.
“We all had to pick a topic to collect data on and research. Our findings were presented at the end of the course. My topic was ‘Are ghost crabs only nocturnal?’ Ghost crabs, Ocypode quadrata, are nocturnal but can be seen during the day.
“This experience was great because I learned a lot about marine science. I also met different people from around the country. Even though there was a lot of hard work involved, I had fun!”
Kimberly Tangney, Erlanger: Helping children realize their potential
“Being referred to as ‘the big sister I never had’ sent chills up my spine; to realize I had influenced a child at such a vital age made the exhaustion seem slight and worth every moment.”
“This past summer I was given the opportunity to support campers, helping to develop both their academic and life skills at an educational, 10-day summer camp called SuperCamp. With a team of 11 campers, I helped to improve their teamwork skills and promote leadership growth. My goal as a team leader was to guide the campers toward a target of boosting their problem-solving abilities and creating habits to establish clear goals in the midst of their day-to-day routines.
“Amid the scholarship incorporated into those packed 10 days, there was a distinct sense of rapport fostered between the campers and team leaders. With activities to help the campers know they can overcome barriers to their own success, such as an outdoor ropes course and board-breaking, I was able to support them in believing they could achieve what they wanted.
“When I left camp, I felt emotionally exhausted, but I knew that the memories created there were lasting. On the last day of camp, being referred to as ‘the big sister I never had’ sent chills up my spine; to realize I had influenced a child at such a vital age made the exhaustion seem slight and worth every moment. After last summer, I cherish any time being able to help children. I just hope this summer will be as great as my last!”
Jamie Kirsch, Butler: Finding honor in service
“We spent the days cleaning up massive amounts of debris from one yard, making a deck for a gentleman in a FEMA trailer.”
“My most unique summer experience would have to be last summer when I went to Mississippi and Alabama in one trip. I am the advisor for the National Junior Honor Society at our school, and I arranged a community service trip for our group to go and do some clean-up work for families affected by Hurricane Katrina.
“We left on a Saturday in May and returned the following Thursday. There were 10 kids and seven adults who went on this trip. We arrived in Alabama Saturday night around 11:30. The next day we got up early and had a free day. We took a boat ride to Ship Island where there was a fort and a lot of old cannons and war relics. We then spent the afternoon swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Unbelievable view.
“The next three days involved intense work and quite a bit of fun. We spent the days cleaning up massive amounts of debris from one yard, making a deck for a gentleman in a FEMA trailer, running a bulldozer to fill in holes left by trees that had been pulled up by the roots, painting, dry-walling, planting flowers, removing shrubbery, and really thoroughly enjoying ourselves and each other. We did have evening time to do what we wanted with the kids. All in all, the trip was great and the kids, along with the adults, had a marvelous time and we will have many memories to cherish.”
Gwendolyn Williams, Morehead: Visiting Alaska to honor her husband
“In our Kentucky, we are not really aware of the rest of the world.”
“Speaking of a unique vacation, I think mine topped them all.
“Eight years ago, I had an ATV accident and God healed me. Then over four years ago, I lost my spouse. Our dream vacation was Alaska. So with a friend, Carolyn Netherton, we went to Alaska to honor him.
“We started from Morehead in June 2007 and flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, from Lexington, embarking on a 13-day trip. We boarded the Ziederdam for a three-night, four-day cruise. During that time, I got off for a smaller boat to view whales and seals.
“From the boat we got on the McKinley Express. We went up the pass where the miners had been, seeing a lot of grave sites. Carolyn and I panned for gold and shopped. From the train, we climbed into another coach to view the beautiful Yukon. Not much snow as it was 75 degrees. We saw moose, caribou, bears, and wolves. I was told they had to hunt moose for meat.
“Then Carolyn and I rode a helicopter up to Meade Glacier. Awesome. I took a rubber raft 11 miles down Canyon Run. One drop was 15 feet. Carolyn and I visited Jeff King’s place and held the sled dog puppies. He won the Iditarod four times.
“In our Kentucky, we are not really aware of the rest of the world. But I know it is beautiful here. Everyone should visit our state parks.”
To read the Kentucky Living June 2008 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Sensational Summer Experiences.