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  Washington Kayak Club
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First Date with a Yeti

Published on 6/14/2018

First Date with a YETI

By Todd Benevedes

On the weekend of (6/9-6/10) we had the first 2 day clinic for YETI (Youth Experiential Training Institute). This program is in collaboration with the WKC who has generously provided funds to support and help disadvantaged youth experience the activity that we love.

Like any first date, it is an exciting time where “getting to know you” comes with moments of bliss and some moments of “Hmmm”.

The bliss- We had a blast. Kids who otherwise would never have an opportunity to try out a gear intensive, high cost activity, got to go out on the water and truly frolic. On day one, Ahmed, an 18 YO kid from West Africa, wanted to learn every trick we could teach him. By the end of the day he was carving turns on edge better than I can (really!). He can’t swim, but he got in and out of his boat more times than I could count. Cowboy entry, bracing till he capsized, assisted re-enrty, and on and on….and on. English is his second language. He came here when he was 6 (I think) and when I asked him what country he is from he answered, “I’m American” with a thick accent. Love it! This is exactly what I signed up for.

On day two Daniel, a Hispanic kid, with a muffler on his car that would generally annoy me, came with an attitude of respect and appreciation the likes of which we should all aspire to. Complete focus and total commitment to the program were evident from the start. In our introduction/safety meeting, his safety tip was that the students should all pay attention and not fool around. His example on the water never fell short of this advice and he rocked it.

I will not go kid by kid, but suffice it to say that the quality of these young people is inspiring and truly provides me with hope for our collective future.

The Hmmm- For those of us who have all of the advantages the world has to offer, it’s difficult to re-calibrate expectations for a population that is not coming from a strong and stable environment. I did not expect that getting participants there would prove so challenging. Some of them had cars that wouldn’t start, some had to use Uber which didn’t show up, and some suddenly realized they had to go to work. There were other issues and factors that affected attendance and performance that were simply a matter of  personal choices. It was significant that all 5 kids who were signed up for the course graduated from High School the night before.  The bottom line is that YETI had difficulty delivering program participants. This resulted in late starts, and smaller numbers than I had been assured they would bring to the class. YETI scrambled on day two to eventually fill 4 of the 5 spots and saved the day by doing so.

This experience of launching a SK program for disadvantaged youth has been both incredibly joyful and frustrating at the same time. In the end, I choose to focus on Ahmed and Daniel for inspiration and a demonstration of true grit in the face of adversity. All of the kids totally ‘brought it’ and always surprised me when put to the next challenge. I would like to extend a special thanks to club members Lynn Paquette and Paul Tonella, and YETI volunteer Grant Shaver, for giving their time this weekend and making this possible. In addition, I want to recognize Jordan Kimmerly, the executive director of Yeti. She will soon be moving on to a new life challenge as a classroom teacher on the Lummi Indian reservation where she will continue to do great things for kids who could really use a little extra something. Without all of this help there would have been far fewer wet exits, attempts to roll (that’s right), rescues and braces. Their support held me up when it looked like a bust and cheered me on when we really got rollin. Thanks guys, and thank you to WKC for contributing to this cause.

First Date with a Yeti


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