Category: Diakon Youth Services

Take a chance!

It’s been my experience that the finest moments in life happen when you take a chance, whether it be confronting a fear head-on or setting a goal that you believe is beyond your reach but deciding to tackle it anyway.

The first annual Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge 5K Trail Run/Walk in 2012 initiated a series of shining moments that resulted from taking a chance, both for me and others.

I first heard of the race when I received a poster in the mail at my business, Train Yard Gym & Fitness. The event set itself apart from other 5Ks we had been asked to advertise because it included use of a high-ropes course, zip-line and Alpine Tower at the Diakon Wilderness Center after the race.

I was quickly sold on the concept of a beautiful trail run, lots of adventure-focused activities afterwards and the fact that my entry fee would help the at-risk youths the Diakon Wilderness Center serves. I pulled together a group of 10 runners and hikers that year and we were off to see what this was all about.

That first race day unexpectedly turned into an opportunity for me to take a chance. I had been looking forward to the race for months, but a few days before the event I started having hip pain and honestly didn’t know if I could run. I decided to go for it anyway and ended up coming in first place among the females.

Was I ever happy that I didn’t let my fears hold me back!

That was just the beginning of many victories I’ve witnessed at the Diakon Wilderness Center. Nearly a year later, I offered a 12-week challenge program to help people get fit and develop a healthier lifestyle. The participants were making great progress, but I sensed they would benefit from a “face-your-fears” experience to show them they could break through the self-imposed barriers holding them back from being even more successful. My trip to the Diakon Wilderness Center came to mind and I was pleased to learn the center offers a ropes course experience to private groups.

suzanne

Suzanne on the ropes course

 

Our gang loaded up for a field trip and I was completely inspired by the three people in the group who faced this challenge with the most trepidation. Jill doubted she could make two steps up the cargo net because of the extra weight she carried but she surprised herself by climbing halfway. Suzie was deathly afraid of heights but she made it to the top of the ropes course platform and felt as accomplished as if she had just summited Everest. And here’s what Suzanne had to say about making it the whole way across the ropes course and down the zip line:

“I was terrified of heights. I knew I was going on a trip that included rope bridges high in the trees in the Amazon jungles and I wanted to see the jungle from that vantage point along with my friends. The ropes course and zip-line at Diakon showed me that I could overcome my fear of heights and check the Amazon jungle off my bucket list!”

Suzie climbing the cargo net to the ropes course.

Suzie climbing the cargo net to the ropes course

 

I was blessed to witness another moment of greatness when two women who trained in my Couch to 5K® program crossed the finish line of the 2016 Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge 5K trail race.

The training program is designed for people who could literally be starting as “couch potatoes”; it conditions them to be able to run the 3.1 miles of a 5K in just nine weeks.  At the beginning of the program, of course, this goal often seems unfathomable, especially when just 60 seconds of running feels like an hour, but with consistent effort it always works!

For one of those participants, Betsy, “Getting out of my comfort zone was literally going from being a walker to running a 5K. I feared the ‘Killer Hill’ [our affectionate name for a particularly challenging section of the course] and running on trails since most of our training was on roads. When we crossed the finish line it was the greatest feeling of accomplishment!”

Betsey (L) & Stephanie (R)

Betsey (L) & Stephanie (R)

 

And another Couch to 5k runner, Stephanie, couldn’t be happier with her reward for stepping out of her comfort zone.

“Trying to control breathing and the possibility of not being able to finish something I started were my biggest fears of running. After training for the 5K and finishing the Diakon 5K trail race, my running confidence increased tremendously.  I’m still running today and loving the beauty of being outside.”

This year’s Diakon Outdoor Adventure Challenge on Sept. 16 offers several ways you can take a chance and have one of those shining moments yourself!

•    Maybe you run road races but you’ve never ventured onto the trail. Take that step! I bet you’ll love the feeling of being even closer to nature in the woods.  You may even enjoy the freedom of not being quite as attached to your Garmin and concerned with your pace, because trail running is naturally not as fast as road running.
•    Maybe the goal of running for three miles straight seems completely unimaginable, just as Betsy and Steph thought. If you want to go after it, there’s plenty of time to make it happen if you start now. Our training program will begin July 22. You can contact me to join us or you can do it on your own by downloading one of the many Couch to 5K® apps available.
•    Maybe you’re not interested in a 5K but you have a fear of heights as did Suzie and Suzanne. We offer an “Adventure Elements Only” option at the event. What better place to confront your fears than with supportive staff and friends around you?

The best part about attending the Diakon challenge is that you are contributing to the mission of the Diakon Wilderness Center to help at-risk youth get back on track. These teens and young adults face their fears daily as they strive to overcome their past and step out of their comfort zone to learn new skills and coping mechanisms to move forward in a positive direction.

With the support of the skilled and caring staff at the wilderness center, their goal of turning their lives around is not out of reach.

Your participation in the Diakon OAC will help them shine!

Get full details on the event at diakon5k.org.
—Maggie Wonsick
Co-owner, Train Yard Gym & Fitness
www.trainyardgym.com
maggiewonsick@comcast.net
(717) 319-4881

 

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‘Snow’ many opportunities to help others

My 14-year-old daughter randomly shared this thought with me while we were driving last night….

Mom, isn’t it amazing how one tiny snowflake that falls from the sky joins with all the others and creates these huge piles of snow? It’s just amazing.

I agreed with her and then jokingly said, “I’ll bet there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but I’m too tired of all this snow to think what it might be.”

Later that evening, the lesson dawned on me. Throughout the last few days I’ve heard stories of people joining forces to help others during and after the massive snowstorm that hit our region. Many of those people are my coworkers. Alone they could do only so much, but like those snowflakes, they combined their efforts and the results multiplied into something amazing. Just a few examples:

The “do’s and don’ts” of design

I was recently at a dinner party and the topics of gardening and native plants came up.

I mentioned the Diakon Wilderness Greenhouse and how the greenhouse and native plant nursery there support a good cause—Diakon Youth Services. I know a lot about the program because, as a freelance designer for Diakon, I had recently created several promotional items for the wilderness greenhouse’s grand reopening native plant sale.

From couch to 5k…you can do it!

Can’t run 3.1 miles?

Cory Frederick couldn’t run that far either at this time last year, but thanks to what is called the “Couch-to-5K” program, he was able to go the distance at the Diakon Wilderness Center’s 2014 Outdoor Adventure Challenge.

As a member of the event’s planning committee and a huge fan of the Diakon Wilderness Center’s mission to help at-risk youths, I wanted to use my experience as a personal trainer/gym owner/runner to draw more people to the 5K, but also to help others simply gain the benefits of exercise. To that end, I offer some helpful tips below.

Learning to help the bay

A few years ago, we went sailing with a friend and her husband on the Chesapeake Bay. It was a beautiful day—though no strains of Christopher Cross ran through my head—and an unbelievably calming experience.

Of course, when you do that, you tend to take for granted the quality of the water beneath you. But my friend indicated the Chesapeake was still on the mend … but had made progress thanks to people such as those responsible for the grant below, which will have a positive effect not only on the bay but also on the lives of at-risk youths …

Sail on to read some interesting information …

Immeasurable potential

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
~ John Whitehead, Rutherford Institute

Potential.

That’s the one word that sticks in my mind when I think about Diakon Youth Services. The unlimited potential to shape the lives of youths in our community. The potential to do good. The potential to spread love and compassion. The potential to create bonds that last a lifetime.

How to be the real MVP (most valuable parent)

Youth sports continue to be of interest to blogs and media, often with mentions of “helicopter” parents, disrespectful players and belligerent coaches.

So what, you may wonder, can parents do to make the experience a positive one for their children? Jeremias Garcia, who oversees the Center Point Day Program at the Diakon Wilderness Center near Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, not only has extensive experience working with young people of all backgrounds, but also has coached various ages and levels of boys and girls basketball and girls soccer.

We asked him to share his experiences and advice:

Doing the right thing

I grew up without a dad in a really tough neighborhood. My mom did a great job taking care of me, but there were too many negative influences in my neighborhood. I fell in with a bad crowd and got into some trouble. I ended up being put under house arrest, then in an after-school program, and finally the Weekend Alternative Program at the Diakon Wilderness Center.

Happy Halloween…but first, let us take a selfie

Every few months we hold photo contests for our Diakon staff members. Originally, we launched a contest to obtain content for our 27 Diakon Facebook pages, but the process has evolved into a fun way of bringing staff together with one another and the people they serve.

Our last employee Facebook photo contest was themed as the “fall selfie” edition. We had so many terrific entries from a multitude of Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries programs and Diakon Senior Living campuses that we wanted to share some of them here.

Taking Flight to Haiti

Earlier this year, participants and staff of the Flight Program had the opportunity to participate in a Haiti mission trip. They took care of the needs of orphanage children and spent time playing, coloring, writing letters to sponsors, opening gifts, making bracelets and assisting the nursing staff with the kids’ annual physicals. They stayed very busy in the hot, muggy weather! Along with working with the children, Flight participants had the opportunity to work alongside other missions team members in a variety of ways. They assisted the nurses, worked with the builders and even went door-to-door in a tent city to hand out supplies and pray with families. The Flight participants were moved outside of their comfort zones and, through that process, learned a lot about themselves. They learned how strong, resilient and capable they are. They left a lasting effect on Haiti and with the kids of the orphanages, and Haiti left a lasting impact on all of them. One of the participants shared about his experience: