Life is filled with a number of experiences that can uplift and bring down the psyche of a person. Sometimes it can throw a curveball and people, in many instances, can be left afraid of what comes next.
But, with the help of programs such as Outward Bound, which held a recent event where volunteers rappelled down the side of the 31-story One Logan Square building, those who have come face-to-face with adversity have been able to confront their fears.
Take Hayley Boyle. The 23-year-old has dealt with tragedy throughout her life. Her father passed at the age of 49, when she was only nine-years old. When Boyle was in high school, she then lost her half-brother, Brendan, after a heroin overdose.
The two tragedies left her feeling alone but, with the help of a high school guidance counselor, Boyle became involved with Outward Bound and began a six-year trek to where she stands today.
“Before I went on my first trip in the Rockies, I didn’t want to talk about what had happened to me,” Boyle said. “It was something that I felt people would judge me for, that people would take pity on me for and I didn’t want to be that girl. After coming back from that trip, it taught me that it was okay to talk about your experiences and that people aren’t going to judge you because everybody goes through different things. By talking about it, you’re actually helping others, maybe someone who went through a similar thing. You’re inspiring people to do things like this, raising money for a good organization that does great work in the community and will help other students who might be in the same situation.
“The whole experience was life-changing. It teaches you about confidence, it teaches you about survival skills, leadership and how to open up and communicate with others. Part of what I learned was that you can’t bottle everything up inside, you have to be able to talk to others about what has happened to you. Everybody carries different things, everybody has different life experiences that they bring to these trips, even the trips that aren’t even bereavement programs.”
While the Outward Bound program helps those, such as Boyle, who have gone through family losses and other tragedies, they’re reach does not stop there. Steve Schweitzer, who is legally blind and describes his eyesight as “really terrible,” was one of the many to rappel down the side of the building.
The number of people who have helped him through his 20 years of legal blindness has been uncountable but it’s his mindset and the will to do these types of things that push Schweitzer every day.
“If you have people helping out, you find out that there’s a lot of stuff that you can do,” Schweitzer said. “That applies to rappelling down a building, working on a term paper or project. Understanding that part of yourself, it helps in all aspects of your life and I think that’s one of the great upsides of a program like Outward Bound because it compels you – forces you – to take on those challenges.
“At the end of the day, you can say, ‘Wow, I really did that,’ and all the other stuff falls into proportion. It’s still tough, it doesn’t take away the challenge, but it gives you the perspective and the comparison to say, ‘If I can do that, I bet I can do the other stuff.’ That’s what it comes down to. It really is all in your head and that’s the value of programs like this. It forces you to challenge that, it forces you to learn it and feel it and experience it and then, in more cases than not, once you’ve got that feeling hopefully you can replicate it and then promote it.”
Stories such as Boyle’s and Schweitzer’s are just a couple of the hardships that many within Outward Bound encounter. With the help of the program, these two have been able to continue their lives with a positive outlook.
The help that the programs offer to those in need calls out to the volunteers who attended the rappelling event and throughout the nation. John Susko, who pledged to raise $2,000 for at-risk youths at the event, sees what the program does and knows that pushing just a little bit beyond the limits can open doors for more opportunities to live a fuller lifestyle.
“The whole thing about challenge is trying to push the individual a little bit beyond what their comfort level is and to have them deal with some fear, some uncertainties and unknowns, to learn a little bit more about themselves,” Susko said. “As you learn a little bit more about yourself, you really grow inside and become a better person and really give back and move forward with those experiences.”