The YMCA which started the first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910, introduces two inspiring dads from the organization’s Adventure Guides Program.
C.J. Pearl, like many dads, wanted to find a way to bond with his kids and foster their self-confidence. And, of course, he wanted them to create fun memories that would last a lifetime. After hearing about the YMCA Adventure Guides program, which is designed to strengthen family relationships, from a friend of his son, C.J. signed up to participate with his two children, Jack and Ava. Now in their fourth year in the program, C.J. is ecstatic about the progress both he and his children have made. One of the program’s strengths is its ability to encourage more reserved children to step outside of their comfort zones and try new things. And he has seen his two children blossom since joining Adventure Guides.
“Both of my kids entered the program a bit shy and have become more social with a number of very close friends and the confidence to do things they might not have done otherwise…(They) have developed their public speaking skills being onstage at campfire events, which has translated to school and other activities,” said Pearl, who lives in Ladera Ranch. His favorite adventure with kids thus far? Catalina Island, where C.J. and his children had the opportunity to kayak, fish, hike and more with their friends in Adventure Guides. C.J. has also benefited from the program – meeting new friends and even stepping up as a leader himself. C.J. will be taking the helm next year as the Expedition Navigator for the Broken Arrow Expedition, which includes 130 families and 300 members. Under his leadership, the group has grown its membership by 10% and raised over $50,000 in two years to support other families joining the program. “I am much closer with both my kids because of Adventure Guides. We get to spend quality alone time together doing things we may never do otherwise. That is by far the best result.”
Tom Johnson, Lake Forest resident and a member of the Mission Viejo Family YMCA, has been involved with the YMCA Adventure Guides program for six years. He was inspired to join the group in 2012 when he reflected on the time he and his father spent together in the program. One of the secrets to the program’s success, according to Tom, “is that it takes you away from the distractions of reality, a quality that allows each parent to develop stronger relationships with their kids.”
He and his three kids have gone on more than 120 adventures over the last six years, including some that might deter the more fainted-hearted souls: camping in every conceivable kind of weather, from 100-degree heat to 14 degrees below freezing; scrambling up rock faces and careening down zip lines; staying overnight at the Angels Stadium; dealing with waves of rain and snow; sleeping in a museum and waking up to the icy stare of a tyrannosaurus rex. It was during these years of leadership that Tom heard the stories of dads (or moms) that lost jobs, or financial disaster struck, so families had to drop out of the Adventure Guides program. He also learned about the YMCA Annual Campaign fundraising and the scholarships they had available to make sure these families didn’t have to leave their Adventure Guide families.
It was important to him that no family was left behind, so Tom became passionate about fundraising. In 2015, he spearheaded a campaign to raise money through silent auctions, bake sales, raffles, lemonade stands and corporate gifts — the campaign smashed expectations by raising $37,500 in its first year. The next year he helped raise $107,000, almost three times as much, to support YMCA programs. Johnson contributes his passion for helping others to his time spent at the YMCA and its Adventure Guides program. Due to his outstanding leadership as an Expedition Navigator of the Big Thunder Spirit Expedition, Johnson was recently honored at the YMCA of Orange County’s “Distinguished Service Award” luncheon along with other volunteers who have contributed to the success of YMCA.
Contributed by YMCAOC