youth experience trip of a lifetime thanks to AYOU
Never ending awesomeness, were words used to describe
a recent trip area youth took to the Yellowstone National Park.
Ethan Back, Stephan Horne and Darren Gibbs were three students from
South Ripley who were fortunate to be chosen for the inaugural trip
sponsored by American Youth Outreach Unlimited, Inc., a non-profit
organization begun by Kendall Hankins and Jim Waldo.
The three boys were accompanied by Hankins, Waldo and Anthony Mathias,
a senior at South Dearborn, who coordinated the trip.
While the journey to Yellowstone was a new experience for the three
chosen boys, it has been a lifetime of learning for Hankins, who
travels to study the wonders of the park at least 30 times a year.
He would go more if his job permitted!
The group presented video, photos, and gave speeches about their
trip to the Versailles Lions Club last week. The club was one of
their sponsors and members were anxious to hear about what happened.
Jim Waldo told the Lions how the group came to be. He told how he
was golfing with Kendall Hankins and they struck up a conversation.
Pretty soon the two knew they had a lot in common. The next step
was a trip to Yellowstone National Park, which was a joy for both,
as they are avid photographers. Then they took it to the next level.
Wouldnt it be great to share this with as many people as possible,
especially teenage boys? The question became a reality and this
spring the first trip under the name of the new organization AYOU
This trip was provided to youth who maybe couldnt afford it
otherwise. AYOU pays all expenses for this trip of a lifetime.
They are encouraged and given tips on photography, and given a day
dedicated to each boy's interest alone. It isnt described
as a vacation, but rather an educational based program.
The boys agreed there wasnt much time for sleeping, and said
that would be the only downside to the ten day trip. Even that wasnt
enough to keep them all from going again if given the opportunity,
South Ripley High School was chosen as the first school for candidates
to be selected from. They had to first express an interest and then
write an essay. Six applied, Back and Horne were chosen. Hankins
and Waldo reserve the right to select the third candidate and Gibbs
When the boys were called to the principals office before
the end of the school last year, they all were wondering what they
had done. Back said he sat in the office looking at the others,
thinking, what in the world could this be about? Horne
said he thought, What did I do? He said he never thought
he would be chosen.
They would soon learn they had been chosen for the expense paid
trip they had written their essays about. They embarked on their
journey on July 4 at 6:30 p.m. and drove 27 hours to reach their
destination. They slept in a tent, and were at one with nature throughout
We saw things people dont usually see, noted Waldo,
as he told about wolves and grizzly bears having a confrontation,
and many other wildlife encounters.
The boys described the trip saying they liked the wildlife the best.
They were up very close and personal with more than 80 grizzly bears,
saw numerous bison, really big bison, coyotes, otters,
prong horns, mountain goats, and much, much more. The boys described
the buffalo as four times as big as the ones seen here.
They enjoyed the scenery, waterfalls and Old Faithful, but the wildlife
was their favorite part.
The group arrived to find about one inch of snow the first night,
and up to about 74 degrees in the daytime. They would learn about
the importance of the intact ecosystem the park shows, and how rapidly
weather can change. They would also learn about animal patterns
The group would get up about 5:15 a.m. each day, because if you
didnt, you would miss something, according to them.
The young men said they came away with a better understanding of
how everything is out there in the world. They noted
they met people from all different walks of life - even someone
When Lion member Wayne Asche asked if the boys would have liked
to spent more time there, the answer was instant, Oh, yes,
The boys will now be required to not only give presentations about
their trip, but to write a summary essay about the journey. They
will also complete a poster board sized project describing their
trip for display.
The organization that was born from a love to share nature with
others, is still in growing stages. In talking with others at Yellowstone,
there is a possibility of arranging trips to coincide with others
from various places, and meeting up for a larger group. This year
only boys were taken from South Ripley. Future plans are to take
girls and include other area schools.
The 2.2 million acres of mountainous prairie paradise full of wildlife,
and scenery even a picture worth 1000 words cant describe
is waiting for anyone who would be so lucky to make the trip. Even
if you cant or dont want to go, you can make a donation
to this group to give a kid the chance of a lifetime.
The organizations mission is to give todays youth a
vision for tomorrows wildlife preservation and community outreach
through education and adventure.
Waldo and Hankins are gearing up for next years trip when
they can take others to share the experience. The groups motto,
Its All About You! is true. Waldo told the Lions
Club members, Its all about these kids...theyre
our next greatest generation.
To find out more about this group or to donate you can contact Hankins,
who is the president, at 812-756-2339 or 812-689-0220 or email him
at firstname.lastname@example.org. Waldo can be contacted at 812-689-5691 or
by email at: email@example.com.
abovephoto shows all those who took the recent trip to Yellowstone
National Park. Pictured from left are: Ethan Back, Stephan
Horne, and Darren Gibbs, all AYOU trip recipients, Jim Waldo,
AYOU vice president; Anthony Mathias, trip coordinator,
and Kendall Hankins, AYOU president. See The Versailles
Republican for more photos.