Archive for May, 2019

  • Donor Impact

    Braving The Elements To Support Lasting Recovery

    “Usually, when I tell someone I climb mountains with “former addicts”, I get a response along the lines of, ‘That’s so cool! If you can climb a mountain, you can do anything, right?!’ Well, yes… and no. Reaching the summit of a big peak is incredible. For most of our recovery climbers, it’s something they would never have a chance to do outside this program. But if you ask any of these men or women what the true benefit is, they’ll tell you it’s about the team. […] It is my deep honor to journey with them as they continue to climb the greatest mountain of their lives – overcoming what led them to addiction and choosing to pursue healthy relationships and a life of sobriety. They are truly my heroes.” – Amelia, Fundraising climber

    Amelisa Kaiser on Mount Rainier as part of the Recovery Beyond Fundraising Climb 2019.
    Photo Courtesy Amelia Kaiser

    Amelia is just one of seven fundraising climbers that participated in the Mount Rainier Fundraising climb this year. From May 16 -19, 2019, seven of our climbers, Abi Brewer, Camiya Brown, Christopher Poulos, Nate Lanting, Scott Brown, Amelia Kaiser, and Becky Vinson embarked on a climb of 14,411’ Mount Rainier to fundraise for Recovery Beyond. To date, gifts from 133 donors have been received and funds will go toward supporting our recovery program participants and expanding our programs.

    We are blown away by this support and are filled to the brim with gratitude.

    Though the climb itself is over, you can still contribute to our individual climber’s fundraising pages. Every fundraising climber has a reason for participating. Fundraising climber Christopher Poulos states, “The outdoors remains an essential component to my recovery and has helped me find both peace and community.”

    While you graciously consider a donation that will reshape a life, let us give you a glimpse into the type of community we are building and the supportive network we have by sharing details of this fundraising climb.

    For our climbers, it wasn’t about the summit.  It was about the journey, raising awareness for addiction recovery, and creating a sober community.

    Photo Courtesy Nate Lanting

    DAY 1 – International Mountain Guides (IMG) HQ

    The first day was spent at the International Mountain Guides (IMG) headquarters. The constant rain meant snow at higher elevations, and increased snow meant increased safety concerns. Spirits remained high though and everyone kept their fingers crossed for better conditions. The group arrived at the IMG HQ around 2 PM, spent time getting to know each other, talked about their favorite dinosaurs, and then met with Willie Webster, their lead guide at IMG. Together, they reviewed trip details, the itinerary, weather report, and leave no trace principles. Three hours were spent doing a gear check.

    Photo Courtesy Amelia Kaiser
    Photo Courtesy Nate Lanting

    A delicious dinner at Wildberry, a Nepalese restaurant, followed. The fundraising climbers received a Recovery Beyond Beanie (check out our store to purchase your own), water bottle, and a personalized “thank you” note from Nate, Recovery Beyond’s Program Manager, and fellow fundraising climber. The group ordered food and sat around the table sharing who they were, how they got plugged into Recovery Beyond, and why they were participating in the fundraising climb. The evening wrapped up and everyone returned to Lazy Bear Creek Cabin, a beautiful and quaint Air BnB cabin along a creek. A quick dip in the cabin’s hot tub ended the day.

    The rain continued to pour all night.

    DAY 2 – To Camp Muir -10,080′

    The climbers woke up at 6 AM, had breakfast, and returned to the IMG HQ by 7:30 AM with their bags packed and bellies full. They were ready to start the climb! They set out from IMG around 8:30 AM and arrived at Paradise (5,400’ elevation) at 9:15 AM.  At Paradise, it was cold, snowing, and the wind was blowing. The group sauntered over to a breezeway by the ranger station and readied themselves by putting on their boots, hard shell jackets and pants to keep dry, and sunscreen (even with clouds there’s still a possibility of getting sunburned).

    Photo courtesy Nate Lanting

    At 10:00 AM, the group began the first part of the climb up to Camp Muir at 10,080’. After an hour of hiking, they paused to take a break. One of the fundraising climbers, Camiya, had to turn around due to exhaustion. She joined another IMG group that was going through snow school at lower elevations. The group pressed on, taking breaks as needed. Around 9,000’, they were above the clouds, and what a sight it was to see! The sun broke out and the top of Rainier stood before them in all her glory. The rest of the hike to Muir was beautiful. The views were incredible, and everyone took their time so they could enjoy the experience.

    Photo courtesy Amelia Kaiser

    They reached Camp Muir at 4 PM and settled into their own bunkhouse. An hour later, the IMG guides came and got them and took them on a short hike to IMG Weatherport, which included kitchen and seating. Massive burritos were served for dinner. Scott Brown and Chris Poulos ate not one, not two, but -three- full burritos. Hot cocoa and hot tea followed, and a discussion about next day ensued. The night ended around 7 PM when everyone returned to their bunkhouse. By 9 PM, all were sleeping and skies were clear.

    Photo courtesy Amelia Kaiser

    Photo courtesy Amelia Kaiser

    DAY 3 – To Ingraham Flats Camp – 11,100′

    Everyone arose at 7 am and packed their gear. It was cool outside, the skies were clear, and there were picturesque views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount Saint Helens. A delectable and sizeable breakfast at IMG Weatherport consisting of chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and French press coffee was consumed. The climbers reviewed the plan for the day: Snow school first from 9 AM- 12 PM and then a hike to “the flats” camp.

    Snow school was educational. Each hour consisted of a different topic. First: using crampons, or “crampon-ing”. The climbers learned and practiced different waling techniques, such as the importance of good footwork. Second: using an ice ax and learning how to “self-arrest”. Everyone practiced self-arresting with their ice ax and feet (without crampons). A quick snack break came next, and the third hour started: Everyone put on avalanche beacons (a required practice from guided companies above Camp Muir), their crampons, and tied into the rope. Time was spent learning how to travel on the rope, and once everyone was comfortable, they headed up to “The Flats” camp. They hiked across the Cowlitz Glacier and then up through Cathedral Gap, taking time to enjoy the views of Little Tahoma. Fifteen minutes of hiking later and the group arrived at Ingraham Flats Camp.

    It was beautiful up there. There were jaw-dropping views of Little Tahoma and the upper mountain. Ingraham Flats Camp was everyone’s favorite part of the trip and was an “epic” spot to camp.

    Photo courtesy Nate Lanting


    Photo courtesy Nate Lanting

    Photo courtesy Nate Lanting

    Everyone settled into their IMG tents, and around 5 PM, they gathered at the IMG kitchen tent for another delicious dinner: Macaroni and cheese, vegetables, and, of course, a healthy amount of hot sauce. There was talk of the mountain conditions and the climb beginning at 2 AM the next morning. That’s when the climbers received an update on their climb. Willie Webster and the other guides shared how “loaded” the mountain was with snow, unfortunately making it unsafe to travel to the summit. Two guides had observed and cut in a trail to 12,500, making it the new climbing goal for the Recovery Beyond fundraising climbers.

    Were the climbers disappointed? Somewhat, but the weather was out of everyone’s control and they knew the chance for a summit bid would be very low because of it. Mount Rainier has a weather system all her own. Our fundraising climbers made the most of this trip, though. The point of the trip was not to summit, but to raise awareness and funds for addiction recovery. They learned as much as they could from their guides, laughed a whole lot, built relationships, and made incredible memories.

    “The main goal that this climb embodied was to create a sober community, both through fundraising and living it on the trip. We connected, had fun and enjoyed the adventure, all while being sober. The summit was just a bonus” – Nate Lanting

    DAY 4 – Summit & Back Home – 11,500′

    Photo courtesy Nate Lanting.

    At 2 AM, Willie woke everyone up. It had started snowing at 8 PM, about two hours after everyone had gone to sleep, and by that time, there was a new foot of snow on the ground. The group prepped their glacier gear, headed over to the kitchen tent for oatmeal and coffee, put on their glacier gear setup, and readied themselves to safely go as far as possible through the new snow. Helmet, headlamp, harness, goggles, hard shells, ice axe, crampons, heavy gloves – check, all on. They began their trek through the snowy, blizzard-like, dark night. After twenty minutes, Willie, the lead guide, called it. There was just too much new snow and it was unsafe. The team topped out at 11,500’ and then headed back to camp to sleep for a couple hours until first light.
    When there was light, the climbers began their descent, first setting down the mountain back toward Camp Muir, arriving there at 7:30 AM. Visibility was low, the wind was blowing, and it was snowing. A warm breakfast of pancakes and coffee at Weatherport provided a nice break from the elements before heading back down to Paradise. There were whiteout conditions until 7,500’, but the guides were able to navigate well using GPS tracking.
    Our fundraising climbers made it back down to Paradise at 12:15, feeling happy, thankful, and proud. By 1:15 PM, they had arrived back at IMG HQ, had a short debriefing, award ceremony, and an opportunity to share what the climb meant for everyone. All the fundraising climbers were thankful they were able to raise money to support addiction recovery. “Thank you’s” were shared with their guide, IMG, and with each other. A quick team photo and final goodbyes were met with “Let’s do this again!”

    “It was a fun climb even without the summit.  We all knew we were physically ready but the weather had another plan for us.  The IMG experience was incredible.  They communicate well, train us properly while allowing adequate time for rest and certainly having hot, fresh meals available to us was a bonus.  The climb was great because normally most of us are volunteers on Recovery Beyond climbs/hikes and wear some type of leadership hat.  This climb we got to kind of “let our hair down” and climb as friends.  It was great.  I felt like there wasn’t a better group of people to share this experience with.  I also loved that we all had the common goal of fundraising for Recovery Beyond.  It’s always more fun to climb with a purpose.” – Becky Vinson

    Photo courtesy Becky Vinson

    While the climb is over, the fundraising continues. YOU can donate today to create healthy lifestyles for lasting recovery.

    Successful recovery for an individual requires a community that supports healthy lifestyles. This is where Recovery Beyond comes in and provides a cost-effective solution to a growing concern in our communities, easing costs on our taxpayers. An 85{637c4c527fde39f83a380e19107d2ba88ad72607f37ccf8f8b7edeff1c20688c} success rate shows that what we are doing is working. We have a solution, but we need your support. We need to take action today and reduce the high addiction rates and chances of relapse.

    “There’s just something about the outdoors! I am approaching almost 7 years sober and it’s obvious the difference it makes to my state of mind when I get outside either on my own or with the group. Volunteering with Recovery Beyond is not only beneficial to the sobriety of those involved but incredibly important for my own recovery as well. With Recovery Beyond I’ve found a place to belong. With Recovery Beyond I’ve found a family. To be added to their Climb Team means so much. Not just about going up Rainier but getting to be a part of this program and supporting everything it stands for. Thank you for your support!!!” -Scott B., Fundraising Climber

    Donate today – because every person with an addiction deserves to live a healthy lifestyle for lasting recovery.

    • The Mount Si Gift: $50 – This provides 1 program participant monthly mentorship
    • The Loowit Gift: $100 – This provides 1 recovery hiker, hiking gear, 6 recovery-based hikes in the northwest, and the leadership support to do so.
    • The Dakobed Gift: $250 – This provides 1 recovery climber that opportunity to go on a 3-day backpacking trip in the northwest, with a team of experts, recovery support, and all the equipment and wrap around support to do so.
    • The Kulshan Gift: $500 – This provides 1 recovery climber that opportunity to climb to the top of Mt. Baker with a team of experts, recovery support, and all the equipment and wrap around support to do so.
    • The Pahto/Klickitat Gift: $1,000 – Provides 5 months of recovery based mountaineering programming, including 6 training hikes, 2 educational seminars, and 2 mountaineering trips to one person in addiction recovery
    • The Tahoma Gift: $5,000 – One calendar year of outdoor recovery & therapy, through weekly fitness classes, monthly community hikes, mountaineering and backpacking expeditions, and recovery-based mentorship, for one person in addiction recovery

    Check out individual fundraising pages to make your gifts.


    Thank you for your help in creating healthy lifestyles for lasting recovery.

    Please share this post on social media. Invite your friends to make a gift – no gift is too small and is greatly appreciated.

  • Program Spotlights

    McKenzie Johnson, a Recovery Beyond Super Volunteer

    If you’ve ever checked out Recovery Beyond’s Facebook page or Instagram account, you’re more than likely familiar with the friendly, smiling face of McKenzie Johnson, one of Recovery Beyond’s “super” volunteers. In the photos shared, you might see her standing atop a mountain she’s just climbed grinning from ear to ear or proudly posing with a group of Recovery Beyond’s program participants on a training hike that she has led.  If you’re like me, you may know McKenzie’s name from a Washington Facebook hiking and climbing page called the Washington Hikers and Climbers, a place where McKenzie has shared her story of recovery and adventures in the mountains over the years.

    Photo Courtesy: Lee Jacbonson, Washington Hikers & Climbers

    McKenzie is very involved with her community and the causes that are closest to her heart. The creator of Washington Hikers and Climbers, Lee Jacobson, stated, “[McKenzie] is a rock star on the WHC page, and last year, I auctioned off a hike with her on the page (to Earl Peak), and we raised more than $2,600.00 for Kittias County Search and Rescue.” Professionally, McKenzie fights blood cancers with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through fundraising. She coordinates and promotes The Winter Pineapple Classic, a 5K Obstacle Course fundraiser and promotes and fundraises for another LLS physical challenge, The Big Climb. She does this for her mom and for loved ones and friends of loved ones who have blood cancer or have lost someone to blood cancer.

    About a year and a half ago, Nate Lanting, Program Manager for Recovery Beyond, reached out to McKenzie via the Washington Hikers and Climbers group. He asked her if she had seen, A New High, a documentary about Recovery Beyond program participants from the Seattle Union Gospel Mission who trained and climbed Rainier. McKenzie had her whole family watch the documentary, excitedly feeling a connection to many of the program participants. A few weeks later, she messaged Nate back and asked how he got gear for Recovery Beyond’s program participants. She then offered to help the organization get gear donations. That’s when her relationship with Recovery Beyond began.

    “McKenzie is on the front lines, bringing our message of hope and community to the larger recovery and mountaineering communities in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Her efforts on our social platforms and through her work as a volunteer have taken the organization to new heights and driven awareness for our cause in ways we couldn’t have imagined.” – Christopher Mohs, Marketing and Digital Volunteer

    McKenzie’s passion for Recovery Beyond stems from her personal experience in recovery. McKenzie has been in recovery from alcoholism for almost 7 years (June 20th will be 7 years) and kindly shared her whole story with me. She grew up in Seattle in an upper-middle-class family and had a relatively normal childhood. However, she blamed her parents for certain things (later in recovery it became clear that her parents were never the problem), and in high school developed an eating disorder. She wanted to be as independent of her family as possible after high school in order to “hide” her addiction, so she moved down to California to attended CalPoly college. As a soccer player, she could’ve played competitively, but a preconceived idea of what the college experience was supposed to be like caused her to focus more on drinking.  Her eating disorder eventually morphed into alcoholism and she became a full-blown alcoholic.

    McKenzie made herself independent from her parents so they couldn’t have control over her life. She tried to outrun her addiction but eventually realized that because addiction existed in her head, she could never outrun it. She lived in California for ten years, moved to Australia for a year, and then moved back to California. She knew for two years before she got sober that she needed to stop drinking. McKenzie’s sister was a driving force for getting her into treatment. In 2012, she finally asked for help and went to treatment in Vancouver, Canada for five and a half months. It was there that she was taken to a climbing gym, one of the activities that were offered as part of the program. Despite her fear of heights, she fell in love.

    While in treatment, her dad packed up her stuff in California and drove it to Seattle. Once she finished treatment, McKenzie had no place to go except home, which was a place she was scared to face again. Home was where everything had started for her. After she finished treatment, she went back to Seattle, though. She went to AA but wanted to keep her focus on recovery with a hobby she enjoyed as well. Knowing how much she had enjoyed climbing while in treatment, she decided to join Stone Gardens. She took classes, met a friend, and started climbing outside.

    As McKenzie got more and more into climbing, her mom grew increasingly concerned for her safety. She suggested that McKenzie look into climbing with Alpine Ascents. McKenzie picked up a 6-day mountaineering course on Baker with only four months to train, and even though it was the hardest thing she has ever had to do, it was also the most amazing. She fell in love with glaciers on this climb. To this day, it’s where she wants to be. She says she’ll never forget the weather because it went from being awful (pouring rain) to being amazing on summit day.  After this climb, she started climbing more independently, took an immediate course the following year, and then climbed Rainier in 2014.

    One of the biggest takeaways from treatment McKenzie says is that you CAN have fun without drinking or doing drugs. Successful recovery requires more than just attending AA and therapy. Finding a hobby is just as important and climbing became her hobby.  The mountains have been a huge part of her recovery. Her family has also been incredibly supportive.

    “You may not know it, but McKenzie has played a huge ‘behind the scenes’ role in supporting and growing Recovery Beyond. Between her in-field leadership, recovery mentorship, running countless errands, regular program advising, managing our social channels, and sharing her large network of resources with us, she has played a significant part on our team. McKenzie is hands-down the most supportive and helpful volunteer we have, she might as well work for Recovery Beyond! But I think she likes it that way; a way to give back, to recover, to enjoy the organization, while staying behind the scenes and watching it grow. She has given so much, and we couldn’t do this stuff without her. Period. 

    I think the best example that displays this is how she has shown up. McKenzie has been at nearly every hike, lead on every mountain trip, been at every briefing and orientation, volunteer hours getting gear and meal packs prepared, opened her family’s studio for us to use 3-4 times for community events. 

    She is smart, constantly giving good advice about organizational development, or who should meet who for recovery reasons, as well as executes any responsibilities delegated to her.” -Nate Lanting, Recovery Beyond Program Manager

    When a person is filled with passion in the way that McKenzie is, it is hard not to feel inspired by them. After talking to her on the phone, her humble and down to Earth nature makes me wonder if she is fully aware of the impact she is having on others. She is authentic, strong, selfless, and grounded. She truly believes that you can do anything you set your mind to. Even though the hikes and workouts that Recovery Beyond offers can be physically hard, she believes that they are nothing compared to what program participants have been through with their addictions. McKenzie inspires others and encourages them to be who they want to be and to challenge themselves. She relates to the participants because she sees herself in them. Her recovery story is like their stories. McKenzie’s biggest pleasure now is seeing someone’s face light up with joy when they go outside.

    Back to that “super” volunteer concept: What is a “super” volunteer, you may ask? McKenzie. Hands down, McKenzie. I asked her how many hours she has put into the organization, and last year she said she volunteered about eight to ten hours a week of her time. She went on every hike except one. She helps with social media and is a lead mountaineer guide on teams. What doesn’t she do? To top it all off, she is AIARE2 certified and WFR certified. And she is an ice climber.

    “McKenzie is one of those people who just exudes life – she is constantly on the go and working to make things better for others. She is always ready to offer good ideas and to roll up her sleeves to make things happen. McKenzie excels at anything related to social media and getting a message across. She has relentlessly volunteered her time and talent for Recovery Beyond in ways too numerous to count. What a pleasure she is to have involved and to working on our behalf. We can’t thank her enough.” – Gina Haines, Executive Director of Recovery Beyond

    McKenzie gets way more out of her experience with Recovery Beyond than she puts into it, she says. She believes that volunteering is a great thing in and of itself, but she also believes that it makes you a better person and helps you grow. McKenzie would like to thank Nate, Becky, and all the program participants who have become like family to her.

    To anyone interested in volunteering with Recovery Beyond, McKenzie states that it is a growing organization and that you can seriously make a difference. If you want to help, don’t be shy about it! Send your ideas our way. Even something as small as sharing our Facebook posts or one story on a page makes a difference.

    Follow your passions, she says.

    Thank you, McKenzie, for helping our program participants be successful in their recovery. This is why we’re here and why we do what we do. Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to make this organization what it is today – to build healthy lifestyles for lasting recovery. You are appreciated more than you will ever know and Recovery Beyond is beyond thankful for your time, your dedication, your skills, your encouragement, your compassion, and your selfless and giving nature.

    It’s amazing what the mountains can do for someone, how they can change lives, and what can happen when you know you can do anything you set your mind to.

    Happy climbing, McKenzie!

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