Summit students get outdoors with Building Hope Summit County, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center

Case Bosgraaf, 15, of Breckenridge, traverses the high ropes course at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center on Thursday, June 25.
Barry Rubenstein / Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center

BRECKENRIDGE — After many local Summit County students have gone months without outdoor recreation and interaction with other kids, Building Hope Summit County and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center joined forces on Thursday, June 25, to give them an outlet.

Out on the BOEC Ropes Course Challenge, local teens traversed the two-story multi-event course located high up in the trees of the center’s 39-acre wilderness site on Peak 9. For Carol Craig, the youth connection program coordinator for Building Hope, this partnership with the center was especially important for local teens after the community lost two teenagers to suicide in recent months during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“So the school district and some other local community members got together and felt we needed to do something for our local community to help them connect in person,” Craig said. “So, basically, we got a stakeholder group together of different organizations around the county, and we talked about what we might be able to do.”

Working with the education center, Building Hope thought to expand the programming of its connectedness events from just adults to local teens. With a mission of reducing the stigma around mental health and illness, Craig said Thursday’s event was an opportunity for local teens to talk about how they are feeling “in a really light and fun way.”

“To get together with other people and have face-to-face time, not on Zoom,” Craig said.

The events, which Craig said the organizations will continue to do throughout the summer, are free. Though the schedule is yet to be finalized, Craig said the two nonprofits are looking at doing another ropes course event as well as rock climbing and stand-up paddle boarding on Lake Dillon.

As for Thursday, brothers Dirk, 14, and Case, 15, Bosgraaf of Breckenridge appreciated the opportunity to get outside their house for outdoors fun after months of schoolwork and video games indoors.

Chatting with the center’s staff after the event, Case said he’s cognizant that video games are built in a very specific way, to provide sudden, fast and often dopamine rushes. Thursday’s event, where he led his brother through balancing on ropes, ladders and wooden bridges while being harnessed into cables above, was a harder challenge that made him feel better.

“Because you really had to push yourself to actually get there,” Case said. “The self accomplishment creates a difference in the rush. It’s what you get from completing something.”

Case said he and his brothers throughout quarantine would spend two to three hours on schoolwork each morning before often pivoting to their favorite video games, such a “Minecraft” or “Borderlands.” It wasn’t until a few weeks ago the brothers and their family took some time outside to wakeboard on the first days of summer out on the water. Thursday’s ropes course challenge, where staff taught them skills in self-empowerment, trust and perseverance, further took them out of their quarantine routine of staying indoors, which they said they appreciated.

“For me, when you’re going outside, you can socialize, be with friends and have more fun with others,” Case said. “You know, our other brother, he went to the soccer field one day recently to play with his friends and stuff. And at one point, they stopped playing because they were tired and they all just sat and talked. My mom, she said that’s fine. That’s what people need. And I’d agree. That’s what people need. They need to go out and talk with people. But it’s tricky.”

The Bosgraff brothers were joined out on the ropes course Thursday by Breckenridge 15-year-old Dina Hernandez. Before she enters 11th grade at Summit High School in the fall, Hernandez said Thursday’s event helped her overcome her fear of heights. She did so after just three days ago her mom told her she’d signed her up for the challenge.

“And I was like, ‘You did what?’” Hernandez said. “That was three days ago. This is my first time here, it’s kind of nerve racking. I guess I was scared of getting to meet new people, but it was very fun. The rappelling part, I had trouble trusting, leaning back. But I am proud of the fact that I went on the ropes course.”

Dina Hernandez and Dirk Bosgraaf, both of Breckenridge, wait on a high-ropes course platform during a Building Hope program on Thursday, June 25, at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.
Barry Rubenstein / Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center

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