For the second year in a row, I have been impressed by two local shops in Durango: Gardenswartz Outdoors and Backcountry Experience. As a teacher at Southwest Open School in Cortez, I have the incredible opportunity each year to help a few students attend a summer course with the National Outdoor Leadership School based in Lander, Wyo.
Generally, the students who go to NOLS from our school are not thick with money, yet these courses are steep in cost. NOLS offers our students scholarships to help defray the cost, but the students still are responsible for their gear and transportation to NOLS. To further reduce the financial burden on these kids and their families, we take a trip to Durango, and the students going to NOLS request donations and price reductions on the wonderful gear each of these shops offer. These students prepare a quick introduction explaining their situation and the NOLS course and always are ready to walk away empty-handed. But they don’t walk away empty-handed.
The proprietor at Backcountry Experience, Ben Rockis, and the manager at Gardenswartz Outdoors, Skip Favreau, cruise around their stores with smiles and determination to outfit these kids as much as possible. As the mentor of these kids, I am almost uncomfortable with the gracious nature of these “shopping” expeditions. These gentlemen go out of their way to care for these kids whom they don’t even know.
And so, as we drive home with bags of incredible gear and hearts full of the warmth of receiving gifts, we discuss what just happened in these stores. The kids always get it. They understand that this is an act of one human working to help another human, and their turn to do the same will come.
So, this summer when you are looking for some new, high-quality gear, shop with Ben and Skip and know that a little of your cash is supporting their ability to give to the youths of Southwest Colorado.
Sam Carter, Southwest Open School