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Stories / Youth

No Mountain Too High for This Friend and Youth Duo

A 14-year-old teen in the Friends of the Children – Portland program took a look at Mount St. Helens and set a goal for herself that she knew would take serious determination to accomplish. She decided that she would hike to the summit. One year later, Kelsey* realized her goal. Her Friend, Maria,* was there by her side all the way.

Kelsey chose Mount St. Helens to tackle a physical challenge that would push her to work out all year long and make her proud of herself. She and Maria researched the climb, bought a permit nine months in advance, and trained together throughout the year. The day of the hike, the two spent 12 hours together, hiking, driving, eating, resting and talking. “It was honestly one of my favorite days on the job!” Maria said.    

The day was not without adversity, including bad weather that put reaching the summit into question. With one mile to go, Kelsey decided she’d had enough and wanted to head back down. Feeling deflated, Kelsey laid on the trail, doubting her ability to go on. Instead of ending the trek, she and Maria took their time over lunch, reflecting and sharing their experience with other hikers. After contemplating how far they’d come, Kelsey changed her mind and decided to push on to the top.

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Reaching the summit was nothing short of exhilarating. Since the climb, Maria has been getting texts from Kelsey’s family about how she can’t stop talking about the experience and how proud she is that she didn’t give up. Now Kelsey has set her sights higher—on Mt. Hood, to be exact—and is thinking about joining a program for 14-18 year-old youth that features an outdoor physical activity twice a month, coupled with service projects and fundraising to make it all possible.

Many things are challenging for Kelsey and she’s faced many obstacles in her young life. The day on Mount St. Helens was amazing not only because she felt strong, accomplished, successful and proud—she knew she’d done something not all people can do.  

*Names changed to protect the identity of the youth.