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Norwegian School mission evolves after anniversary

MATT JAMES Of the Record staff

On March 17, 1980, shortly after he finished his masters degree in Norway, Tom Cammermeyer came to Park City and started the Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center. The school was designed to help youth and at-risk youth through outdoor education. "It’s all based on friluftsliv," said Cammermeyer, who remains the organization’s executive director. That principle roughly translates to, "the open air life," or "this life in nature." It means learning how to live simply and unselfishly through the lessons learned in nature. Cammermeyer’s mission was to use this philosophy to help area youth overcome obstacles in their lives. "It’s always been for youth," he said. "It’s trying to reach the youth at that pivotal time between 6 and 14." That is when, he noted, a young person often sets his or her path in life, and that is also when the Norwegian Center believes it can help most. To celebrate its efforts over the last 25 years, the organization will hold a party and fundraiser at Deer Valley Resort’s Silver Lake Lodge on Nov. 19. The evening will also mark a turning point for the organization. Over the years, the Norwegian Center gradually added other programs, including outings for tourists and corporate groups and fee-based summer camp programs. Those activities all began as ventures to help the school finance its free youth programs, but over the years, the fee-based programs began to draw the Norwegian Center’s resources away from its original mission. So, earlier this year, the board of directors decided to make a change. The organization is cutting its fee-based and corporate outing programs to focus exclusively on youth outreach. "We just realized that it’s time to truly get back to its roots," said Cammermeyer. "It’s all been an awesome process and a learning experience, but it’s good to simplify." "If the need was great for kids 25 years ago, it’s even greater now," said Mac MacQuoid, one of the organization’s board members. With that simplification, the organization will be able to increase its efforts and help more area youth. "We’re able to reach more kids now with more sponsorships," Cammermeyer said. In 2005, Cammermeyer said the Norwegian Center reached 405 youth with its programs. In 2006, the organization should be able to reach more than 950. To do so, he said the Norwegian Center will work with all 13 middle and elementary schools in Summit County to identify and enroll children who need the program most, and Cammermeyer will get back out into the woods to work with them. "It’s simplifying and going back to the principle of friluftsliv, " he said. The new direction will also allow Cammermeyer to focus on helping youth, rather than managing the organization and its business. "Tom needs to be out there with the kids on the hikes," MacQuoid said, "not in the office." "The objective with this renewed direction is, I can be the philosopher, and be out with the kids, and do what I do best," said Cammermeyer. The first step will be the event at Deer Valley next week. The evening will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and continue with a sit-down dinner, a live music from the Joe Muscolino Band, and a brief live auction, which will include items like a Napa Valley vacation, a Main Street shopping package, and a 1957 MG Midget. The event will also serve as the Norwegian Center’s primary fundraiser. "It is to celebrate 25 years; it is to celebrate Tom and the success of the school," said MacQuoid. "Hopefully, obviously, we can raise some money and get some people involved again." "It’s basically a celebration of the first 25 years and preparation for the next 25," said Cammermeyer. MacQuoid said the organization hopes to raise approximately $100,000, which would go almost exclusively toward the group’s program costs. Without its additional corporate and tourist-based programs, the organization has been able to dramatically cut its staff from 26 mentors to three or four and streamline its program. While that will allow the center to operate more efficiently, it will also be more dependent on fundraising. However, both Cammermeyer and MacQuoid emphasized that this way, the organization will be able to reach more kids. "It gets our youth back into the wilderness areas to see what we have to offer," said MacQuoid. The evening will offer an opportunity to sign up for the Norwegian Center’s wilderness mentor training programs and see the organization’s other plans, which include possible programs with Park City High School and classes with the University of Utah. But the thing the organization wants to emphasize, according to Cammermeyer, is its return to its roots with the simpler, smaller, more efficient program. "The most powerful thing," said Cammermeyer, "is putting a smile on a kid’s face." Tickets for the Norwegian Outdoor Education Center’s 25th anniversary celebration are $125. To make reservations or for more information about the event, call 649-5233.


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