Encouraging Teens to Meet the Challenge
Teen gang member “James” arrived at Peak 7 Adventures with a criminal record — and a chip on his shoulder.
As part of a community service requirement, James was required to participate in the outdoor adventure rock-climbing program. He had no interest in climbing, only proving his toughness.
But James’ bravado turned to fear as he ascended a rock. He was afraid of heights, and his guides met those fears with assurance. By the end of the trip, his defenses came down. Three climbing trips later, the Peak 7 staff saw a new James, one who wanted a more positive life.
James’ story is repeated time and again at Peak 7, a Spokane, Washington-based organization founded by Ryan and Loran Rogers Kerrigan. The program takes young people on kayaking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, backpacking and rafting trips to teach them about the outdoors — and life.
While Peak 7 serves teens from various backgrounds, they focus on underprivileged and at-risk youth, partnering with treatment facilities, group homes, drop-in centers and other programs. The Kerrigans started the faith-based organization in 2006, serving 137 teens. By 2013, Peak 7 had served more than 13,000 youth. Since most of the teens cannot afford the cost, the organization relies on grants and donations for support.
“Many of our kids come from challenging circumstances,” Ryan says. “So when they do the work necessary to finish a trip, it gives them a glimpse of what they are capable of.”
The Kerrigans are graduates of the University’s parks, recreation and tourism management program — Ryan in travel and tourism, and Loran in therapeutic recreation. Loran worked full-time as a recreational therapist while Ryan worked sans salary to start Peak 7. Loran is now the organization’s sponsorship coordinator.
Clemson equipped them with the knowledge to start Peak 7, but it did even more, according to Ryan. “The national reputation of Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management program opened doors for us, and we grew as people and leaders at Clemson,” he says. “Professors took an interest and encouraged us.”
And now, the Kerrigans are encouraging James and thousands like him.