Soaring to New Heights

 

Rise-N-Shine Charity Helps Local At-Risk Youth

By Lisa Moore

Rafting, kayaking and rock climbing are fun, thrilling ways for many to relax this summer. But for Rise-n-Shine, a Ballantyne-based charity, they serve as metaphors for life that help children heal from the effects of trauma, violence, abuse or loss.

Through therapeutic outdoor experiences, Rise-n-Shine addresses trauma and grief issues, instills hope, ignites dreams and goals, enhances protective factors and serves as a prevention avenue for the risk-taking behaviors to which this population is vulnerable if needs remain unmet.

“The mission of Rise-n-Shine is to enhance self-esteem, nurture curiosity, build resiliency, and expand personal horizons resulting in the development of hope and individual growth,” says program director, Andrea Larrick, a professional counselor who works with children that have experienced violence.
The program exposes boys and girls ages 12-15 to group counseling, high and low ropes courses, indoor/outdoor climbing, nature trails, kayaking, canoeing, a service project and rafting. These experiences are used as tools to overcome fears, develop trust and build confidence. Rise-n-Shine is free for all participants so that income does not hinder any child’s ability to participate.

Larrick says the original idea for Rise-n-Shine came from Debbie Crawford-Sturm, a doctoral candidate in the counseling program at UNC Charlotte. “We met while I was pursuing my Master’s in the same program. Debbie and I shared the vision of providing the youth of Charlotte with an opportunity that was unique. The opening of the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte provided the perfect setting for exposing at-risk youth in the community with an experience to raise self esteem, increase confidence, and improve problem solving skills,” Larrick states.

Rise-N-Shine launched its 10-week pilot program in March of 2007. “The success of the pilot was evident from the smiles, words of encouragement and renewed dreams in the future that were displayed by the participants,” recalls Larrick. The Ballantyne Optimist Club shares the vision of Rise-n-Shine and has supported the program from its infancy. “The Optimists are volunteers who conduct positive service projects aimed at providing a helping hand to youth,” she adds.

Participants of Rise-N-Shine are assessed three times during the program and once 90 days after their participation has subsided. Improvement in areas of self-esteem, self-efficacy and perceived competency are measured. Participants in the pilot program showed increases in motivational competencies, relational competencies, and general level of functioning.

The initial goal for Rise-n-Shine is to raise enough money to fully fund 80-100 participants between September 2007 and May 2008. This non-profit organization seeks grant funding, as well as private and corporate contributions to run the program.

Sponsorships and rafts are now being sold for the 1st Annual Friends of Youth Whitewater Challenge, which will be held at the US National Whitewater Center on October 6, 2007. This event will allow members of the community an opportunity to experience the facilities at the US National Whitewater Center while raising money for Rise-n-Shine.

To learn more about Rise-n-Shine and how you can contribute, visit www.rise-n-shine.info.

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