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Laramie River Valley Rendezvous 2014

Teens line up to help unload tents and sleeping bags during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. July 6-12. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens line up to help unload tents and sleeping bags during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. July 6-12. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

SGT Samuel Groff, Colorado Army National Guard, leads a team of teenagers in building a tent during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. July 6-12. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

SGT Samuel Groff, Colorado Army National Guard, leads a team of teenagers in building a tent during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. July 6-12. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A couple of teenage girls try to work through a team building challenge with the guidance of Master Sgt. AJ LeBeau, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. July 6-12. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A couple of teenage girls try to work through a team building challenge with the guidance of Master Sgt. AJ LeBeau, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. July 6-12. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens participate in team building exercises during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens participate in team building exercises during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens check out a UH-60 Blackhawk owned by the Colorado Army National Guard during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens check out a UH-60 Blackhawk owned by the Colorado Army National Guard during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens race on pedal carts during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

Teens race on pedal carts during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A teenage girl waves as she rides a horse during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A teenage girl waves as she rides a horse during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A group of teenagers mountain bike during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A group of teenagers mountain bike during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A couple of teenage girls enjoy trying an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

A couple of teenage girls enjoy trying an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) during the week-long Laramie River Valley Rendezvous program near Ft. Collins, Colo. The kids, who are identified as being high-risk for potential drug use, participate in various games and activities throughout the week and are mentored by members of the Colorado National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. B. Kevin Coulter)

FT. COLLINS, Colo. -- Children in the Ft. Collins area had a chance to get away from it all and spend a week in the woods experiencing some of the best that the Laramie River Valley has to offer.  In 1984, local police officers started a program for at-risk youths that would get them out of their comfort zone and help them increase their self-esteem and reduce criminal recidivism. 

"The Colorado National Guard has been involved with the Rendezvous for many years," said Bob Younger, president, Laramie River Valley Rendezvous.  "We really could not run this program without their support.  We put together the camp, but then they bring out the tents, cots, all the necessary equipment, water buffalos that provide water for our campers, and we just could not provide the camp without their support."

The kids participated in hiking, horseback riding, white-water rafting, and biking during the day.  In the evening, they did other team-building activities.  Counter-drug and alcohol messages were incorporated from the National Guard, Team Fort Collins, and other staff members throughout the week. 

"It's great because we take kids who normally spend the majority of their days sitting in front of a TV and get them out, interact with people in an environment they've never been in before," commented Brad McLeod, lead raft guide.  "Getting out of your comfort zone is a lot more important than people realize and kids don't do it.  They seem to build their lives around their comfort zones so, taking that extra step and pushing them that far and forcing them to do stuff that they really don't want to do, but once they get through with it, they're all that much better for it."

Colorado Army National Guardsman Warrant Officer Warren Buchanan said, "I think it's an important, important job - it's good to get out there, reaching out to the youth, and making that connection.  Kind of showing them and talking with them about the different things they face today, and showing them what opportunities are out there."

Many of the children have been members of the program for years.  Having an opportunity to bond with the children and watch them grow is one of the things keeps the camp counselors motivated. 

"Some of these kids have become lifelong members of our family and organization.  And to me, just seeing that change that occurs over that week is so empowering, not only to the work that I do, but also empowering to the kids.  And I just, I just absolutely love the change that I see occur," said Younger.

There are many programs that the Colorado National Guard is involved with that help our people in the community, but the shared opinion is that this program is amongst the most rewarding for the members who participate.  It has always been a Guard tradition to give back to the community and help the people of our community when called upon, and this is definitely a win-win situation.