Stories from the Field

Student of the Year Kinzie Speaks at Yosemite Board Retreat

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In early May, NatureBridge Student of the Year Kinzie Klein gave a powerful speech at our annual Gala. We were thrilled to invite her and her family back to our Yosemite National Park campus this June to attend the annual retreat for our Yosemite Board. Kinzie's presence, contagious smile and enthusiasm brought nothing but inspiration to the weekend. Read her full speech below:

I was asked to say a few words tonight. I would like to start by saying—NatureBridge has given me Confidence, but even before that, it has given me true independence. 

Without receiving this much needed independence I would not have had the opportunity to gain the confidence I now have. For those who don’t already know, I have cystic fibrosis or CF for short. I have 10 daily medications and respiratory treatments that I do twice a day. Because of my diagnosis, I am usually excluded from programs like this or limited to having a nurse, sibling or parent required to attend to supervise my medications and treatments. But NatureBridge is amazing! Their policy reads along the lines of "...If you have medications or medical needs, you need to be able to take care of yourself when attending NatureBridge."

This amazing opportunity has changed my life in multiple ways. Obviously this gift of independence led to me attending NatureBridge in Yosemite, having an amazing experience and learning that I really can take care of myself and be responsible. I gained great amounts of confidence in my physical abilities and my ability to be myself with my peers. My new found confidence and the amazing backpack, which I received as my award for being selected as the Student of the Year, helped me to approach my doctor to once again ask for more independence. For at least the past three years my mom has tried to convince my medical team that I would benefit from a battery operated vest and nebulizer, so I can do my respiratory treatments when there are no outlets or electricity. My medical team has not been supportive of this request, as they feel the battery operated ones are not as strong and effective as the type that plug into the wall. 

Thank you for having an amazing program and allowing teenagers to have independence in a safe environment to build their confidence. This opportunity will be something Kinzie remembers and treasures always.
Jeannine Klein, mother of Kinzie

Long story short, I had my quarterly appointment on June 7th, just a few weeks ago. My doctor always asks me what I have been up to in the past three months. I was prepared! I had gorgeous photos from the NatureBridge Gala to show him and photos I took at our hotel of all the gifts I received at the Gala—especially of my new backpack. I told my doctor how much I want to take this awesome backpack and actually go backpacking. I just need a battery operated vest and nebulizer so I can continue to be responsible for my health when I am off the grid. I promised to use my plug-in unit always when I am home. To our astonishment, my doctor quickly agreed that I have shown I’m responsible enough for the opportunity to get off the grid. He now can’t wait to hear about my future backpacking plans. I’m hoping the paperwork and insurance will go through quickly, so I can go on at least one backpacking trip this summer. 

So you see, when I say NatureBridge has truly changed my life—it really has done so both emotionally and physically.

I was overjoyed to be invited to this retreat and even left my church youth camp a day early to get here. I wanted to once again enjoy the beauty of Yosemite and to say thank you to NatureBridge one more time. Thank you again to the NatureBridge team in San Francisco who helped me with the Gala. To Jesse and Elise for all the emails regarding this retreat. To Kristina and all the Directors; Quap, Sara and all the Educators, and to the entire NatureBridge team here in beautiful Yosemite. Thank you for giving me the treasured opportunity to be independent, to enjoy nature and to gain the confidence to go enjoy it to the fullest. Thank you for letting me speak to you today. I will be forever grateful to NatureBridge, thank you.

In early July, Kinzie took her very first overnight backpacking trip with her mom in the Trinity Alps. Next on her list? A multi-day backpacking adventure with her battery-operated vest that we are thrilled to confirm she received just last week! 

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