Challenge Adventures (CA) is an organization that was founded in 1989 by two social workers, George Appenzeller, MSW and Sarah Meadows, MSW to provide a unique therapy experience for young people ages eight through 25. This service takes place on journeys on National Wilderness Areas on National Forest lands in North Carolina under special use permits issued by the US Forest Service. These permits allow Challenge Adventures to also use llamas as therapeutic assistants and pack animals. The llamas that work with Challenge Adventures are often rescue animals that have been rehabilitated and trained by Challenge Adventures volunteers.
The program has served a variety of children and youth participants, most of whom have physical, learning or emotional challenges, including ADHD, ODD, developmental delays or disorders, mental health diagnoses, complex trauma and other difficulties that can lead to social isolation and social dysfunction. Since its inception, CA has provided services to more than 2,200 young people and recreational backcountry experiences for about an additional 750 youth. Over its 21 year history, Challenge Adventures has provided approximately 13,200 days in the Wilderness for therapy services.
Since its beginning, Challenge Adventures has depended on volunteer, licensed therapists to provide the professional services for the children it serves. In addition, Challenge Adventures provides paid internships for graduate students during the summer season. With the help of these volunteers, a treatment philosophy and specific methods have been developed and manualized. Challenge Adventures has always worked with other organizations which are already serving the children that Challenge Adventures works with. In the first several years of operations these were largely groups serving children diagnosed with behavioral disorders or adjudicated youth. For the last several years, the children served have primarily been ones who have been sexually exploited or abused or neglected to the point of requiring therapeutic foster care. In addition, Challenge Adventures has worked in recent years with young people with both specific and pervasive developmental disorders.
Ultimately, Challenge Adventures would like to see every individual create their own life story and have the practical life skills necessary to make their story a reality. For the young people we work with, the process of doing so can often be more restricted than that of their peers for two reasons. First, they have lost a great deal of time dealing with their difficulties, time their peers spent learning skills. And, second, their life story has often been heavily influenced by the reactions and perceptions of others.