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YMCA introduces new BOLD/GOLD program

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga is gearing up for the summer with two brand new outdoor programs for teens: BOLD and GOLD.

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Through the YMCA’s new BOLD/GOLD program, Chattanooga youth will get to experience a variety of outdoor adventures this summer.

BOLD, Boys Outdoor Leadership Development, and GOLD, Girls Outdoor Leadership Development, are designed for youth from the sixth to 12th grades. The programs’ goals involve using the great outdoors to teach leadership skills and develop communication skills.

“I think it puts the kids in a situation where they can test out and experience leadership,” said North River YMCA BOLD/GOLD program director Daniel Kadwell. “We’ll give these kids an opportunity to step up and play these roles that they might not have the opportunity to play in everyday life.”

Participants will have the opportunity to experience the outdoors through different extended backpacking, climbing and canoeing trips. For instance, on one GOLD trip, the girls will be spending five days canoeing the Tennessee River Blueway.

“That’s going to be an awesome trip,” said Kadwell. “It’s literally right in Chattanooga’s backyard.”

Other trips include backpacking near the Appalachian Trail, in Big South Fork, and rock climbing in the Pisgah National Forest. Some trips are designated for a specific age group, and only the Introduction to Backpacking expedition is coed.

The trips range in cost from $115 to $620.

The program is open to anyone in the community, said Kadwell. Kids who participate don’t have to be members of the YMCA. Scholarship opportunities are also available — Kadwell said he didn’t want to turn anyone away.

“They are going to interact with a great diversity of other teenagers,” he added. “It’s just going to expand them as individuals.”

Kadwell didn’t get involved with the great outdoors until he went to Appalachian State University, where he ended up majoring in outdoor recreation. Today he remains an avid lover of the outdoors, especially rock climbing, he said.

“I think this town doesn’t really have programs like this,” said Kadwell. “[Spending time outdoors] has changed my life. It’s made me healthier and happier. It’s opened up a whole new aspect of my life. I identify myself through the outdoors and rock climbing more so than anything else I do. That’s why it’s exciting for me to have this program to introduce the kids to the outdoors.”

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