Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center holds annual gala
November 6, 2009
It’s nearly 65 degrees on a crisp, clear autumn afternoon in Park City. Inexplicably, your child is sequestered in his bedroom, heading into his third straight hour of simulating armed warfare in the video game "Call of Duty."
Does your child have gasp nature-deficit disorder?
In this day and age of technomania and cyber-obsession, parents’ answer to this question seems to be a resounding "yes."
But kids in Summit County have an enticing alternative to computer vision syndrome and video game-induced carpal tunnel. The Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center (NOEC) is here to rescue them from technology overload.
Over the past 29 years, the nonprofit has taken about 14,000 local youth out of the classroom and into the woods, fulfilling its mission to "help children find balance in life through nature."
On Saturday, Nov. 14, NOEC will hold its 29th annual fundraiser at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge. The black-tie gala will feature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a buffet dinner, silent and live auctions, and dancing to the Park City High School Jazz Band.
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The fundraising goal for the evening is $100,000, which will supply about two thirds of NOEC’s budget for the coming year.
The organization also hopes to draw in members of the community that may not be familiar with its programming. The Center strives to teach the four C’s communication, consideration, commitment and cooperation through hosting educational outdoor experiences for local youth.
NOEC’s programs are offered to students in grades four through twelve at all three school districts in Summit County. The program specifically targets students who are "at-risk" or dealing with grief.
The small groups travel to the Uintas or other natural habitats with a trained mentor and take part in activities including hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. They relinquish their watches, cell phones and iPods so that they can be at one with nature.
"We try to get youth unplugged for a little while so they can get in tune with nature," explains NOEC founder and executive director Tom Cammermeyer. "They eat when they’re hungry and rest when they’re tired." Along the way, the kids learn survival tips and interesting facts about the great outdoors.
The program draws principles from Norwegian and Native American philosophies revolving around respect for oneself, for others and for nature. Many of NOEC’s teachings stem from the Norwegian concept of "Friluftsliv," which translates to free-air-life. What it means, says Cammermeyer, is, "We’re all an equal part in living the simple and unselfish life in nature."
The nonprofit recently moved into the Swaner EcoCenter, a partnership Cammermeyer says he has been dreaming about for years. Being in the same building will facilitate collaboration on community programs and educational ventures.
The funds raised at the community gala will help NOEC continue its existing programs and create new opportunities for local youth. Cammermeyer says he wants to get the community more involved in the programs and hopes to launch family and parent excursions in the future.
Like most nonprofits, NOEC has had to adjust its operations in light of economic challenges. Cammermeyer says that the quality of the programs remains the same, but decreased funding resources have caused the organization to drop from two team excursions per day with two mentors each to one team per day with one mentor and volunteers.
"This fundraiser is extremely important," he says. "What’s important now is getting the Center sustainable so we can pursue other endeavors to reach out to all."
The gala starts at 6:30 p.m. Auction items include a weeklong trip to Tuscany for up to eight people, a weekend stay at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, ski passes, a vintage biplane ride, a Remington sculpture and much more. Tickets are $150 per guest or $1,500 for a table for 10 people. Reservations must be made by Thursday, Nov. 12, by calling 649-5322.
For more information about NOEC or how to get involved in its youth programs, log on to http://www.thenoec.org or call 649-5322.