Norwegian Outdoor Education Center celebrates 30 years | ParkRecord.com

Norwegian Outdoor Education Center celebrates 30 years

Alisha Self, Of the Record staff

Park City nonprofits across the board breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday night as word spread that voters had overwhelmingly supported the ballot measure to extend the Summit County Recreation, Arts and Parks sales tax for another 10 years.

The RAP Tax is distributed among local groups with the primary mission of preserving history, culture, science and the arts. One-tenth of 1 percent in sales tax is added to purchases in Summit County to help fund programs and, in the past 10 years, the tax has generated more than $7 million.

"I think tusen takk a thousand thanks should go out to Summit County voters for their support," says Tom Cammermeyer, the founder and director of the Norwegian Outdoor Education Center (NOEC).

The NOEC receives between $33,000 and $45,000 annually from RAP Tax funding, which greatly helps support its experiential education programs connecting youth with nature.

While the tax provides a large chunk of the nonprofit’s budget, Cammermeyer says, the bulk of its operational costs come from the annual fundraising gala, scheduled this year for Saturday, Nov. 13.

The upcoming event marks 30 years of providing outdoor learning programs for school-age children. Since its inception in 1980, 15,000 youth have participated in the NOEC’s programs. "It’s been a pretty amazing journey," Cammermeyer says.

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The NOEC’s goals for 2011 include adding 500 more students from the Park City, South Summit and North Summit school districts to its daily programs, bringing the total number of annual participants to 1,500. The organization would also like to begin offering Saturday outings once a month for families.

"To do this, we truly need a successful fundraiser," Cammermeyer says.

The 30th anniversary fundraising gala will be held at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge. A social hour with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction will start at 6:30 p.m., followed by a buffet dinner, live auction, and music and dancing to a professional jazz combo.

The silent auction will feature items including ski passes, lodging packages and restaurant gift certificates. Coveted live auction items include a VIP trip to the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas, a weekend getaway to the St. Regis in New York City, a golf vacation in Ireland, a guitar autographed by Paul McCartney, a ticket to NASCAR drivers’ school, a vacation at the Fairmont in Banff Springs, and an excursion to the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.

The NOEC staff will present sponsorship and volunteer opportunities and discuss upcoming plans. According to Cammermeyer, there are many changes coming down the pipeline in the next five years.

The most immediate goal is to boost excursions from three to six outings per week, which will require additional mentors, transportation and insurance funding. Economic challenges have forced the organization to reduce its programming in the past two years.

The NOEC offers its programs to ages 10 to 18 and students are either selected by school counselors or participate as part of a grade-wide program. Excursions are led by trained mentors and feature activities such as hiking, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, rock climbing and low ropes course initiatives. "The activities are the means to get us into nature," Cammermeyer explains.

The true focus is on developing respect for oneself and others through nature. The program strives to teach the four C’s communication, consideration, commitment and cooperation all in the context of encouraging an unselfish relationship with nature. "It’s a subtle way of learning and letting them see for themselves," he says.

Students are asked to relinquish their watches, cell phones, iPods and other gadgets for the duration of the experience. "The idea is not to do away with the techno-society we live it, it’s just to learn that we can unplug for a little while," he says.

Many of NOEC’s teachings stem from the Norwegian concept of "Friluftsliv," which translates to "free-air-life." The concept promotes freedom in nature as a way of life. "We are an equal part of her, not apart from her," Cammermeyer says.

The fundraising goal for the 30th anniversary gala is $100,000, which will fulfill two-thirds of the nonprofit’s annual budget. Tickets to are $150 per person or $1,500 for a table of 10. RSVP by Nov. 8 by calling 640-4270 or emailing info@thenoec.org .

"We know times are tough," Cammermeyer remarks. "We are so grateful for the support the community has given us and continues to give."

For more information about NOEC and programs offered, visit http://www.thenoec.org .

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