For the last 25 years, I've been involved in an event called the Laramie River Valley Rendezvous. This is a non-profit, annual summer event which is intended to build rapport and trust between young teens living in single parent families, and local law enforcement. It involves kids from Larimer County, Colorado, various law enforcement organizations from Larimer County, the Colorado National Guard, the National Forest Service, and many, many volunteers from the area. All together, we spend a week camping in Roosevelt National Forest. Each day the kids (usually around 45 of them) spend their time at activities such as white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and, of course, horseback riding. Each evening they have special educational and fun entertainment. This can range from visits from mountain man trappers, wolves, and even mountain lions!
I've been involved in the horseback riding portion of the camp for all of the years the Rendezvous has been in existence. Each day the other "wranglers" and I take 12 kids, plus counselors and the law enforcement officers they are getting to know on an all-day ride in the wilderness. We stop for lunch at the top of Middle Mountain, where the riders roast and eat hot dogs. After a short rest, we mount up and ride again. Twenty-five years (as of July, 2010) and not yet one serious injury to any kids, counselors, or horses! I'm guessing that is somewhere between 2500 and 2700 riders.
The strong points of the program are (1) at risk kids learn that law enforcement officers can be their friend, and someone to turn to if a troubling situation develops, (2) kids gain self-confidence in doing activities that, in the city, they have little opportunity to try, and (3) we adults get to "give back" a portion of the blessings that God has given us. It's a tough week......little sleep, hard work, and funding is always a consideration. But the Rendezvous lives on, and I for one am truly blessed to be a part of it.