There was a recent news report that the Richmond Metro Zoo is building an adventure park that will provide new and different ways to view the animals. I’m sure they are excited to complete this project and I’m sure the public is anxiously awaiting the opening of this new attraction. If you are interested in learning more, here is a link that gives a little information: http://m.nbc12.com/autojuice?targetUrl=http%3a%2f%2fwww.nbc12.com%2fGlobal%2fstory.asp%3fS%3d23422778
We are excited for them too! At the same time, we have a few concerns about confusion and perception. When we started in this business in 1980, ropes courses were used exclusively by outdoor adventure companies like Challenge Discovery, Outward Bound, NOLS and a few others for education, personal growth and development, and team building. Today however, ropes courses are used in wider variety of venues and for a lot of different purposes. I have seen metal “ropes course” structures that are part of miniature golf course complexes, I have seen ropes courses used as amusements in which they are set up for big festivals and then removed the next day, and I’m sure we have all heard about the various “zip line” companies that allow you to “fly” through tree canopies with ease. All of these activities started with the traditional “ropes course,” who’s inherent design was to create a perception of risk that would allow people to grow beyond their comfort zone and create a sense of teamwork while working through this with other people in a group setting.
Today, these adventure parks, zip line companies and other courses are often referred to as “pay for play” activities in which you pay a fee to participate in a specific activity for a period of time. It is no wonder that these kinds of companies are popping up all over the place…people love to feel the rush of adrenaline through their veins. We get calls all the time asking if we do “zip lining” and although we have zip lines, we have to explain that we are not that kind of a company.
Challenge Discovery is not a “pay for play” program. You can’t sign up as an individual for our programs (with the exception of Fearless Fridays). You can’t buy a ride on the zip line, you can’t buy “lows or highs,” and you can’t expect to get out of the hard work. Our programs are intentional team building experiences in which you MUST work together and you MUST do the hard work with yourself and with your team, and you MUST make the commitment to attend…oh, and it takes more than an hour!
Some people might say, “You have to change with the times,” or, “Go where the money is,” but I say we aren’t holding on to something that is old fashioned or something from the past. I say (and our loyal clients would agree), this community needs Challenge Discovery more than ever. Relationships need developing and nurturing. People need to learn skills that help them work together more effectively and everyone can benefit from feeling good about themselves. So as these new companies and activities continue to pop up around us, we will continue to work hard to make sure people know the difference between our team building programs and other “pay for play” activities. There is a place for both. Just make sure you know what you are looking for.
As we say…Adventure is Our Classroom.
I went to Challenge Discovery in the 1990s. I was in my 20s and thought it was a “fun day” that my employer had arranged for us. That “fun day” changed my life. In addition to having an absolute blast, it brought some profound realizations. I learned a lot of things about myself – limits I put on myself, fears I had, and what I got from the experience was more than fun, it was safe place to experience and acknowledge my limits and fears and realize they were the same limits and fears that were stopping me from getting what I wanted out of life and that they were a kind of wall preventing me from helping and being helped by others. And, yes, I also got the high that comes with flying down a zip-line, but the better high is the one that comes with realizing that I had left some “baggage” behind when I left that day – an outcome I definitely wasn’t expecting. I’ll never forget the sense of “anything is possible” I had as I walked through field to the parking area to leave. It’s the kind of experience that words can’t ever really capture.
Joseph Campbell said, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of feeling alive” If you go to a thrill-a-minute zip line, you’ll feel alive for a few minutes. My experience at CD made me feel alive and liberated and that feeling never left me.
Thanks Courtney. This is EXACTLY why we do what we do and why we refuse to allow ourselves to fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. We exist because we hope that our process…EXPERIENCE. LEARN. GROW. CHANGE. has an impact on everyone that participates in our programs. We do not intend on becoming a “box to check” on somebody’s “to-do” list. For 33 years our mission and goals have remained the same….we help people build positive relationships with others, help groups and teams understand that accomplishing hard tasks is better done together and we believe everyone benefits from feeling a sense of accomplishment not matter how big or small. We are steadfast in our determination to accomplish this and bring this awareness to all of our participants through our experience-based programs. Our work may not be seen, known or understood in a single day. In fact, we may not understand the impact Challenge Discovery makes in our community until years later when participants in Challenge Discovery programs become leaders in the community.