Rose Hill Residents usually have an “Outing” on Wednesdays. In the past few weeks, they have gone snow shoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, ice skating, and to the Fredric Remington Museum. This past week, however, Recreation Director, Tom Oldenburgh, outdid himself by planning an excursion to the SUNY Potsdam Leadership Challenge Center.
Residents travelled to Maxcy Hall on the SUNY Potsdam campus, where the Leadership Challenge Team welcomed the group and right away residents gathered in the center of the gym for a series of “ice breaker” exercises that were designed to develop trust and to encourage participants to push themselves to the very edge of their comfort zones.
Between playing with mousetraps, giant beach balls, and a blindfolded game of “tanks and commanders,” residents and staff stretched both themselves and their sense of adventure.
Each exercise was processed by the SUNY Potsdam staff and directly related to each resident’s current treatment experience. Learning to trust others and pushing yourself takes tremendous courage whether it is a blindfolded encounter with a ready-to-spring mouse trap, or in a therapeutic relationship.
Before long, residents were using a rope swing and teamwork to “rescue each other from a burning building 100 stories in the air,” a game which required strategic thinking, communication, some athleticism and a lot of teamwork. Watching residents guide each other into the hu-la hoops representing floating safe zones was rewarding not only from the perspective of watching leadership skills being tested, but also to see them laugh and enjoy themselves as a group.
There were three “stations” set-up around the gymnasium, the ceiling of which reaches more than thirty-six feet high. The first station was a rock wall where harnessed residents pushed themselves to see how high they could go; often first challenging themselves on the side directly vertical, and then at the middle which was more contoured requiring climbers to go “out and up.”
Divided into teams, the residents moved on to the next activity, the Giant’s Ladder, where they worked together to climb a “rope and wooden beam ladder” big enough for the Friendly Giant all the way to the ceiling.
The final station was named the “Flying Squirrel” which was a simple rope and pulley set up, where one resident was harnessed into a vertically hanging rope on one side of the block and tackle, while six or seven other residents were harnessed into the other side like…well, sled dogs! After confirming that the “flyer” was ready, the sled dogs walked or ran pulling the “flyer” straight up to the ceiling.
After all the participants had an opportunity to try the activities, the Leadership Challenge Team brought the group back together for a final processing session. Residents who had spent the van ride there talking about their fear of heights had “flown” thirty-six feet up in the air or climbed there with the support, physically and emotionally, of their peers.
We cannot grow if we do not challenge ourselves; which requires a tremendous amount of courage. We may be scared, but with well-placed trust and the support of those on “our team” we are able to accomplish things we may never have thought possible. Is there a better lesson to teach those striving for recovery?
- Aron McLaughlin, Rose Hill Primary Counselor