Skip to main content

Two Women. Two Stories. Fifty Years.

By: Mary Runkel

Joy went to Outdoor Lab 52 years ago. She remembers it fondly, and though some of the details now escape her, others are recollected with great detail. Joy got to attend Outdoor Lab during her last year in elementary school. She and her classmates looked forward to it during all of elementary and when she finally got to go, she knew then she was “one of the big kids,” grown-up and independent.                                                                                  

Liliah also attended in 6th grade, then as a high school leader and finally as an intern at Outdoor Lab in 2016. She looks back now and realizes it had more of an impact on her than she knew at the time. It gave her a love of the outdoors. It exposed her to an adventure outside of her regular neighborhood bike rides.

So many things overlap regarding their experiences. Similar sentiments and lessons learned. But as one might expect, many things were different.

They both experienced the magic of a snowstorm at the mountain sites. Joy remembers a Thursday night storm and waking up Friday morning to the sun glittering on the untouched snow. She says everyone broke up into individual classes for the last hike/exploration of the week and that their class followed some animal tracks, which led to a huge snowball fight that even the teacher got into.

“The castle, oh my gosh,” Liliah begins. She remembers the first snow as an intern, which came up on her Facebook memories years later. She recalls the first snow up there being absolutely incredible.

“It was glittering, and we had the little pond,” she says.

“It was the most magical feeling. I don’t know how to explain it. That was one of my favorite moments,” she continues. Liliah also ended up hiking in the snow with a fellow intern and went far back into the woods. She said the fallen trees and aspens made it magical. Like they were in their own little world. And in many ways, they were.

What’s changed? For one, the funding of Outdoor Lab continues to evolve. Joy says that in the 60’s, they raised money for Outdoor Lab by holding paper drives at the schools. Now outdated, groups used to collect old newspapers and take them to local recycling shops for a certain dollar amount per pound. They were a way for nonprofits and schools to raise money for certain causes.

Now the fundraising still requires effort, but of a different kind. The Outdoor Lab Foundation has several programs to ensure that fundraising remains successful, including the Lab Cards Program, grants and encouraging the community to donate to this legacy.

The biggest thing they have in common: their high regard and love for the program. Joy says that every time she thinks about her time at Outdoor Lab, it makes her smile and brings back happy memories. “It was THE highlight of elementary school and the top 5 of entire public school. I want other kids to have that experience.”

As for Liliah, she thinks Outdoor Lab is important for all kids today, too. It gets them outside of their comfort zones and encourages mindfulness. She talked a lot about how this mindfulness has changed her life- she shortens her showers, encourages others to stay on trails and informs them why it’s important. Liliah says Outdoor Lab gave her a love for the outdoors, something she’ll keep with her for the rest of her life.