Despite Early Summer Setback, Outdoor University Gives Out Degrees

Outdoor Campus had thousands of dollars in equipment destroyed following a possible arson case in July.

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 This isn’t a traditional classroom — kids of all ages exchanging their books and rulers for a fishing poles and paintball guns.

The Outdoor University celebrated its 5th year as a program designed to expose kids to the great outdoors.

But classes like paintballing, fly fishing even kayaking almost didn’t happen after tragedy struck just weeks ago.

On July 11, a fire in a shed destroyed much of the outdoor campus’ kayaking equipment. While the investigation is still ongoing, police say that the fire was not accidental.

Despite the setback, Outdoor Campus Director Thea Miller Ryan says spirits are still high.  

“Today is the day that makes all the hardship that happened earlier this month worth it,” she said, “I just saw a little kid cleaning a fish and he looked at me and said, ‘This is the first time I’ve seen fish guts!’ there’s nothing better than that.”

Local businesses and even larger ones like Coca-Cola donated kayaks and provided discounts to ensure that plenty of s’mores were eaten;

And that kids like Carter Vaahle, who enjoys touching the frogs and learning about fish, could spend the day learning more about nature.

“I learned that fish have spiky things like to defend themselves,” says Vaahle.

Ryan hopes that justice will be swift in catching those responsible for the shed fire, but she believes today was a small win.

“I hate to give credit to anyone who caused a problem like that, but they actually, i think, did us some great publicity,” she added.

If you didn’t get a chance to make today there are activities to do all year long. Just visit outdoorcampus.org.