I still remember the first day of Wild Earth for my kids, Oscar and Ruby, 10 years ago this summer. I drop them off in a random driveway in High Falls. A friendly teenager (Kole Brownstein) draws out my shy 7 year old by saying, “do you want to play a game?”
Before I know it, both my 5 and 7 year olds are running around a field playing an intense game of Achilles Tag. As I walk up the driveway to leave, my friend who has also just dropped off his kids for the first time, notes there are no buildings or bathrooms; he turns to me to ask somewhat skeptically, “So, what exactly is this camp?”
Fast forward 6 hours. I drive up to the Wild Earth sign at pick up, not sure what to expect. My kids tumble into the car. Not only are they covered in mud, they are fully camo-ed up — black coal smeared on their cheeks, sticks and leaves in their hair. They are brimming with happiness.
That long ago summer was an incredibly wet and cold one. We were getting daily emails from David Brownstein warning us of the dangers of hypothermia. Cold rain fell all day and there were severe thunderstorms at almost every afternoon pickup.
It was the kind of summer when Wild Earth kids went to camp wearing wool hats and layers of clothes that never fully dried. And yet, my kids LOVED it.
Oscar & Ruby are Wild Earth kids through and through. What does that mean?
First, they are tough and resilient. Those rainy days will do that to you. And, by the way, those cold, rainy days are actually the best days (or so I’ve been told).
Second, Wild Earth has turned my kids into risk takers, in all the good ways. Something about having to light a one match fire and feed it by yourself in the dark woods, or doing a solo overnight, teaches you to go to that place where you’re a little bit uncomfortable. My kids have taken the risk-taking they’ve learned at Wild Earth and applied it to other parts of their lives. They’re willing to put themselves out there. As their mom, I have seen this lead to tremendous personal growth.
Leadership is a bit of a buzzword these days, but… Third, in the most genuine, least buzzwordy way, Wild Earth has made my kids into leaders. My once shy son now tells stories and leads games. My daughter teaches songs and skills. Both Oscar and Ruby work alongside the young adults who mentored them, and they in turn have future Wild Earth leaders looking up to them. Wild Earth has helped my kids become leaders in a true and authentic way.
I’d like to end on the most important thing Wild Earth has given my family — gratitude. Again, a buzzword of the moment, but gratitude has been integral to Wild Earth from the start.
My family and I are immensely grateful to Wild Earth for bringing us closer to nature, to ourselves, and to this amazing Hudson Valley community.
olanda lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and spends summers and weekends in the Hudson Valley. A lifelong violinist, Yolanda recently left the practice of law to teach Suzuki violin. For many years, Yolanda practiced women’s rights law and taught at the NYU School of Law. She is co-founder and Board Chair of A Better Balance: the Work and Family Legal Center. Yolanda grew up in the Boston area, hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and camping with family and friends. She is grateful to Wild Earth for helping her family build a stronger connection to nature and community. More about Yolanda's work.