The High Camp Society was established in 2017 to create a solid foundation for the future growth of Experience Learning. The financial contributions from our High Camp Society allow us to focus on our mission and developing the most effective programs to reach more kids each and every year.
by Katie Wolpert
Marianne was born and raised in West Virginia. She grew up camping with her family and lived in the state until she went to college. She hasn’t lived in the state since but comes back regularly to visit her family. “I go back every year,” she told me, “and rent a cabin at a state park for four days with my siblings. We go to Watoga, Canaan, Blackwater, all over. Hiking is my thing.”
Marianne lives in Georgia where she has been retired for 15 years from her beloved career as a biomedical researcher in immunology and infectious disease. Her late husband was a forest ecologist. She has worked with and served on the board of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for years. Along the Georgia portion of the corridor she still does a lot of trail maintenance and runs youth programming along the trail.
She has been to our Spruce Knob campus exactly one time. Years ago. She joined the High Camp Society this year at the Maple level. “Why,” I asked her, when there’s so many other organizations who would love to have your donation between here and there?
Marianne and her late husband retired early so that they could travel. They explored wild places around the world together for many years and they often talked about how to use the money they had to support causes that were important to them. As her husband’s health started to decline they did a lot of soul searching about what to do with the money that would be left at the end. One of their goals was to support smaller organizations “that are doing niche stuff with small staff where your contributions can really make a difference.”
Of course, there’s also the West Virginia piece. With strong family roots in the state, Marianne was keenly aware of the ways her home state had been underserved and over-harvested through the years. But she believes in West Virginia and she felt that contributing to our programs was a way to raise awareness about how important it is to take care of the world.
Raising awareness, facilitating self-growth and self confidence, and increasing civic engagement are some of the main objectives of our programs. But measuring impact from that sort of programming can be tricky. “You take a bunch of kids out into the woods and you have no idea what you’ve planted and what might wither and die and what might bloom years later,” Marianne explained. “The metrics are hard to come by. It just seems to me like you have to try [to make that impact].”