Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sherpa's of the CMC: Larry DeSaules

A sherpa is renowned in the international climbing and mountaineering community for their hardiness, expertise and experience. They carry heavy loads doing much of the work on expeditions at high-altitude. That's why we decided to call our volunteer appreciation such a fitting name, Saluting CMC Sherpas. If you know a CMC Sherpa who's put in extra work or gone out of their way to help the CMC, a member or a group, then please let us know. If you have someone in mind, then nominate them here so we can salute the future CMC sherpa! Our Youth Education Program (YEP) staff jumped on the opportunity to nominate Larry for our CMC Sherpa of the month-here's what they had to say about him.

When I think of Larry, the words that come to mind are knowledge, dedication, and consistency. Being new to YEP, it has been so helpful to have someone around who knows essentially everything about the history of our program. His dedication and consistency  are invaluable to our program. In the few months I have been here, I've seen Larry helping kids rappell from several pitches up on a climbing crag (that he developed),  work with me to develop a presentation that I need to give, meet with us about goals and plans for the program, and spend countless days belaying at our wall - he's everywhere! He embodies the spirit of volunteerism and YEP would not be the program that it is today without all of his help. 
~Mel, Youth Education Program Manager

Last Summer I asked a group of climbing camp participants the following question,  “How many of you were supported, cheered on, or generally felt awesome because of Larry this week?”  Every single hand was in the air.  Larry is dedicated to what we do above and beyond your average volunteer.  Larry is part of what makes YEP a success.  Whether it is teaching weather, mountain safety, or rock climbing Larry Desaules is an integral part of our program.  We can’t thank him enough.
~Ryan, Youth Education Program Manager

Larry DeSaules' passion is to help other people have healthy lives while experiencing the unique open spaces of Colorado's mountains. He makes a meaningful impact in the Denver area through his volunteer work with the Colorado Mountain Club's Youth Education Program (YEP). 

The recipient of a Sprint Foundation local grant for the Denver area in 2010, YEP provides a positive group learning environment where youth can interact with adult volunteers -- like Larry -- to learn life skills such as team-building and leadership, while engaging in academics and healthy outdoor recreation. 

During the past twelve years, since YEP was founded, Larry Desaules has been a tireless volunteer, contributing his time, energy, expertise, and financial support to the Youth Education Program.

As volunteer extraordinaire, Larry chaired the Youth Education Program Advisory Board for five years. In this role he helped to provide vision and leadership to the 5-person team of volunteer experts who guided the direction of YEP.

Outside the board room, Larry has helped teach youth classes in schools, at open space parks, and on-site at our facility in Golden. He is truly a champion for YEP, volunteering to work directly with youth for 100-150 hours per year for the past 12 years. (That's the equivalent of nearly four work weeks per year!) 

Larry realized that he loved teaching so much while helping with YEP's field trips that he decided to become a substitute teacher after his retirement. In that role, he has been an ambassador for YEP to public schools in which he has worked, bringing new audiences to YEP's unique programming.

Larry has also supported YEP financially over the past 12 years by making regular, generous contributions to the program, as well as serving as a link to his former employer, IBM, who donated more than $10,000 in computer equipment over four years. When Dick's Sporting Goods discontinued their climbing line in 2010, Larry's initiative and perseverance helped YEP acquire hundreds of pairs of youth-sized climbing shoes and climbing harnesses (approximate value $12,000), allowing us to more than double the size of our gear bank. 

In addition to working with YEP, Larry is an active volunteer with the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) adult education program. He joined the CMC in 1993 and shortly thereafter volunteered to teach in the Basic Rock Climbing Seminar. Since then he has been active in many leadership positions, including developing a new adult course on multi-pitch rock climbing. Each year Larry volunteers an estimated 100 hours to adult education, bringing his total volunteer hours to well over 200 hours per year for the last 12 years!

In combination with academics, YEP provides a continuum of fitness education, which is essential to combat the obesity epidemic that disproportionately affects children from disadvantaged populations. Youth rock climb, hike, play relay games, and participate in active learning strategies while they learn math and science. Each class emphasizes one science subject chosen by the teacher at the time of registration. Imagine learning about Colorado's geology while rock climbing, taking a math class to measure slope angles and avalanche danger, or learning about human physiology and the effects of altitude during a snowshoe hike. YEP's unique program connects math and science with the school curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school students through hands-on experiences. 

YEP teaches more than 5,000 youth per year with only two full-time staff. In order to maintain this high level of program efficiency, we rely on the support of dedicated volunteers like Larry.

The youth we serve are from a variety of schools and youth organizations in the Denver metro area; 31% are ethnic minorities. Many students are also second-language learners, and 32% of the youth we serve qualify for federal Free and Reduced Lunch programs. Although these youth can see the mountains lining the horizon, just 20 miles away, most of them have not set foot in a forest or on a mountain trail. Instead of experiencing pristine Colorado, renowned throughout the world for its beauty, they are surrounded by concrete, city noise, and fluorescent lights. 

What has changed as a result of the nominee's service? 

YEP has taught 58,196 youth since it was founded in 1999, and countless numbers of those students have benefitted from Larry's expertise, kind personality, and generosity. Whether Larry is belaying youth during a rock climbing class, teaching avalanche science in the classroom, grilling burgers in the park, or leading an advisory board meeting -- he brings a smile to everyone's face. 

In addition to Larry's service to YEP, he also established a rock climbing program at Champ Camp, a camp for youth with asthma. These youth would normally not have opportunities for rock climbing. Larry formed partnerships between the American Lung Society and the CMC to fund, staff, and create this program, which he has been running for 10 years.

He also developed a partnership with Camp Eden near Golden to establish rock climbing routes on their property. In doing so, he opened up YEP's ability to use the site for our summer camps. This site is available for our use only because of Larry's expertise and time.

What makes your nominee unique?

Larry DeSaules has a passion for life and experiencing Colorado at its fullest. As an organization, CMC has more than 900 wonderful volunteers, yet Larry is like no one else. He gives selflessly to the community and instinctively knows where support is needed. For example, knowing that we had a very small budget for our YEP volunteer party this June, he surprised us by bringing dessert, soda, and his own grill to cook the dinner! 

Larry consistently comes through to help with YEP like no other volunteer. He is the "go to" person when YEP needs help. 

Larry's commitment to sharing his passion and to making the world a better place by connecting people to active learning adventures in Colorado's great outdoors is inspiring to all who meet him. 

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