For obvious reasons, names have been changed and faces have been hidden for this story. But it doesn’t make it any less encouraging.
If you know about GOAT, you can’t help but know about the Adventure Team – our intensive mentoring/discipleship program. We believe that it’s one of the most effective programs that we have, but we also recognize that it comes with it’s own set of struggles.
Last summer we took our entire Adventure Team on a four-day backpacking trip. Out staff was excited, and our excitement was only exceeded by the Adventure Team member’s excitement. Many of them had been with us for three or four years, but we also had some new students. Regardless of their time in the program, everyone was excited.
The first day of the trip was a long, hard day on the trail – almost all uphill. There was a lot of sweat, a lot of breaks, and even a few tears. When we finally reached the end of the day there was a collective sense of relief. As we set up camp, a couple of the guys wandered off into the woods and made some poor decisions.
The main problem with their poor decisions was not only how it affected them, but that it affected the whole group. It was clear the next morning that we couldn’t continue the trip – because of their poor decisions, we all had to go home, and we had to let their parents know why we were heading back.
When we returned to GOAT in Greenville, their mom’s were waiting for us. There were some unfortunate things said, some things yelled and some overall unpleasant experiences. The guys were not prepared to take responsibility for their actions and they said some hurtful things to our staff – our staff that knew them well and had cared about them for many years at this point.
We quickly came up with the terms for them to return. Community service hours at GOAT and outside of GOAT. They told us that it “wasn’t fair” and their parents agreed. They even told us that they thought they would never come back. It hurt our staff to hear that, but we knew that we had to hold them accountable.
This all happened in August, and we didn’t hear from the guys for months. We even started to wonder if we had made the right decision – had we been to harsh with our terms? Every time we talked to the guys or their moms we continued to hear that we “weren’t being fair”
Fast forward to February and we finally heard back from the guys. They both came to GOAT to personally apologize for their actions back in the summer and to start doing their service hours.
They took initiative and called us to come serve their hours at GOAT so that they could once again join the Adventure Team. By the time Spring Break rolled around, they had not only completed their hours, but they had both been attending Adventure Team and keeping our behavior guidelines in school enough to be back up to Level 2. They would actually be able to attend our Spring Break trip according to the rules we set for them to achieve.
They both joined us for spring break and were model students for our three-day trip to Pisgah National Forest for a multi-day trip of mountain biking and hiking and time around a campfire learning what it means to be a man and to love the people around us.
Once we returned home from the trip Joey, our Program Director, got a text from one of the boy’s mothers. She said that after they had gotten home and they had told her “going back to GOAT was the best decision I ever made”.
This was from a boy who months ago had told us we “weren’t being fair” and we were “being too hard on him”. His mother had even told us that she thought “he would never come back to GOAT after this”.
These kind of things don’t happen in a lot or organizations. Many organizations can’t afford this type of experience – they need to keep kids in their programs for numbers’ sake or for grant reporting. Here at GOAT we’re lucky enough to have a huge group of donors who understand what we’re doing and believe in it. We’re lucky that you all support us giving our kids a system of accountability that they may not get anywhere else. We’re so lucky that you trust us to provide this type of structure to boys who truly need it.
We wish that you could all see this – but we hope that you can see what your donations are doing. We hope that you can see your donations changing the world – not through outdoor experiences, but through experiences that build character and create boys who will one day become men – whether they have real men in their life or not.
We want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for giving to GOAT, and thank you for giving life change. None of this would happen without you – and whether any of these guys ever know you thank you, you’re still making a difference. Thanks for fighting the Good Fight. We love each and every one of you.