Success Stories

We take pride in the work we do for families at Open Sky. Open Sky has served hundreds of young adults and adolescents and their families. We have included a variety of testimonials representing students and parents for you to learn more about how this has impacted their lives. Should you be interested in talking with a former student or parent of Open Sky, we would love to share with you several names that would be able to assist you in learning more about the experience from their unique personal perspective. Contact the Admissions Department, or 970-759-8324, for details.

Read a sampling of testimonials:young adults jumping for joy!
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Student Testimonials

Hello there Open Sky staff.
I'm Eric Howard and I was a former student at your program in Nov/Dec. 2009. I just wanted to write a blanket email telling the staff of Open Sky how appreciative I am for the experience i had during my time out with my Team, Field guides, and other staff. I look back even now and think of my time in the desert as one of the most amazing and important experiences of my life so far. All the things i experienced from the Hiking, camping, cooking, talking laughing, crying, relationships I built with staff and other students, were just phenomenal. I feel so proud of myself for doing what I did there, and how much I appreciate the staff i was with and got to know through my time there. I call the first Journey of my life, in that it wasn't just going somewhere new, it was experiencing and finding out things about myself that I didn't know I had in me. My field staff was awesome in many ways, but the one I think about most is the fact that they pushed me to feel emotions that i never really wanted to feel, both negative,positive, and everything in between. This made me grow so much in such a short time that i hardly had time to realize what i was doing.

My therapy staff help me get to the root of my problems and then deal with them when i really didn't want to. The Spiritual staff, which was all of the people there but that was some staff actual job allowed me to see another side of how to get in touch with who i was, am, and want to be as a person. It also just plain help me relax. Yoga, meditation, song, writing, and other things all played a part, and i still do some of these things even now at home. In terms of how I'm doing now, I'm sort of getting my life back on track and also reinventing myself as a person I want to be. And Open Sky was the catalyst that set that in motion for me. I am now involved in school, on call employment, active recovery and therapy, and also doing things that make me feel good without the use of substances. I'm also becoming a stronger person physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and Spiritually. I'm Also able to now face challenges head on. where in the past i would have ran an hid. All in all, I am starting to live my life, and i think that Open Sky is a major reason for me being able to do that. What you guys do at your program, and also wilderness therapy in general is incredible and life changing, and I hope that others get to experience that for years to come. In closing, Thank all of you so much for what you did for me.

-All my love and gratitude

Eric J. Howard (young adult Dec. '09)

PS I would like to contact some of my team individually, but this soon after ive been there is apparently not very kosher this early, but after time has passed i would like to contact many of them. For now I would really like a good majority of the staff to see this email as a blanket thank you from both myself, and indirectly from my parents. Happy trails,and be careful of lightning in the San Juan's this summer.

Hello Open Sky. This is Simon a graduate of the Avatar about a year ago. I am writing to tell you some pretty sweet news. After dropping out of high school to pursue other educational opportunities i got my GED and decided that i wanted to go to college. So i applied to Fort Lewis right in your backyard. I am psyched to inform you that i was accepted a couple of weeks ago. I am now officially enrolled and ready to go! I thought that i would write to you because Open Sky, saved my life, and helped to make me the person that i am today.

During this summer I have also been working full time at a organic farm near the house. I am really enjoying my work there and am starting to think that i might have a future in farming. I love working out side and with my hands and at the moment i am thinking about minoring in agriculture this year. I will, of course, be majoring in Adventure Education.. I don't think that my life could possibly have taken a better road at this point. Thanks so much and i will make sure to drop into your offices at some point.

-Simon Nott (May '09)

NICOLA!  I've been doing well and I feel I've transitioned well to (an aftercare program). It has been a good choice for me and as for the horses, I've become barn manager in no time! It's been exciting and certainly very different from Open Sky but I'm learning to appreciate those as well. I'm absolutely in love with my therapist, she's just incredible and I am so grateful for her and the work we have done as well as the work we will be doing in the future.  Please give every one in Durango my very best, I think of you all the time and I send you all my love and positivity each morning.

My best always,

Alexandra (young adult, Oct. '09)

Former young adult student, Alex Stevenson (young adult female summer '08) is featured in the Stamford Advocate, the local paper for the greater Stamford, Connecticut community.  Alex enrolled at Open Sky in May of 2008, graduating two months later after successfully completing our young adult program.  Read the article here.

Alex’s life spiraled out of control late in high school with drug abuse and self-destructive behavior before her family decided to orchestrate an emotionally supportive intervention with the help of a local educational consultant. Persuaded by the conviction of her family and the pleas to find help for herself, she decided to enroll at Open Sky.

“I owe all of my success to Open Sky and the team of people that I worked with!  If it helps more kids just like me that would be amazing!,” says Alex.  After more than a year since her time at Open Sky, it appears as though this was a very impactful experience that has inspired her to consider wilderness therapy as a career path.  “I am currently looking to transfer from Fairfield University to University of Vermont so I can study Wilderness Education.  My dream is to work for a program like Open Sky or if possible actually at Open Sky with all of you!” We are honored by her story and her returned enthusiasm for life and following her life’s path.

We appreciate the recognition that Alex has given us and yet we know that Alex and her family are largely to acknowledge for coming out of the darkness and finding a path of hope and promise for her future.  We hope the best for you, Alex, in all your endeavors and perhaps one day we will see you here giving back to those that had difficult times similar to yours.

Read the full article here.

Hey Jade,

It's been quite a while how have you been?  I am doing really well, I'm still at (a transitional program for young adults) in the last phase of their program.  I am going home in late May for a few moths then I'm moving to San Francisco in August to go to art school.  Being (here) was pretty hard at first but it has been really helpful and has helped me build on everything Open Sky did for me.  I have been seeing an herbalist at a clinic here, at first because I wanted to go off my antidepressants, but I've decided that first I'm going to work on my diet and nutrition.  I've cut dairy out of my diet because my sinus problems have never completely gone away but I know I felt much better at Open Sky when you had me limit my dairy intake.  I'm also taking lots of supplements and it's only been a week since I've started this regimen but it's amazing how much more energy I have.  I was wondering if you could send me the list of supplements you had me take at Open Sky, specifically the tincture you gave me for my anxiety...I want to say it was called nervine oil or something?  You gave me a large bottle of it for graduation and I finished it a couple of months ago, I never realized how helpful it was until I left Open Sky because now I am actually in real-life high stress situations.  I miss Open Sky and everyone there, I've been thinking a lot about coming back to work as a field guide in a couple of years after I get my undergraduate degree.  I can't thank you enough for everything you did to help me while I was there, especially because you opened my eyes to a entirely new way of managing my health that I can use for the rest of my life.  I miss you and I hope our paths cross again sometime in the future.  Take care."

Kerry (young adult, Nov. '08)


Josiah (adolescent boy July '08 graduate)Our son Josiah Harrell came to Open Sky June 2, 2008 and stayed until the end of July. Since then he has made wonderful gains especially in school. He had a great year last year, with no issues at all. He had no infractions even as small as a tardy. He made good grades and did very well in his sports. But what I see the most in Josiah is that he is willing to admit that until Open Sky he was headed for disaster. He even goes as far as to tell people, sometimes strangers that he is in conversation with , that Open Sky changed his life completely. He is going to be a junior in High School and plans on joining the military when he graduates. He still does not communicate like I wish he would but much better than before camp. He is a good boy with a great big heart and we thank you for helping us find him. We are going to try to plan a family vacation to Colorado next summer and hope to visit. We enjoy your newsletter and wish you continued success. Attached is a picture of Josiah....thanks for everything you do for our youth.

Karen Harrell-Rudolph (mother of Josiah, adolescent boy July '08)

James Zobian cap and gownJames Zobian (adol. boy, May '08) wrote his college application essay on his experience at Open Sky and what he learned about himself. James Zobian college essay 2009

Hello Open Sky Team,

It has been over two years since I graduated from the adult program at Open Sky. I promised the field guides that I would write back, but have not until now. Open Sky was one of the most difficult and most rewarding experiences in my life, and I want to thank you all for that. I decided to attend during a four-year period of depression, anxiety, relationship turmoil, lack of direction, and misdirection. I spent approximately two months at Open Sky and finally felt grounded in something for once. I left feeling light, expansive, motivated, and calm. Unfortunately, that feeling started to dissipate after about only two weeks. Despite recommendations for a residential treatment program, financial resources and my desire to return to school led to a strictly outpatient treatment plan.

I returned to school and threw myself into a situation similar to the one that contributed so much to my problems. Despite attempts to figure out what it was at Open Sky that helped me, I was floundering again. I felt all the same depression, anxiety, relationship turmoil, etc., as before, but this time I had enough of a higher baseline and new tools to deal with problems. I recovered and have kept going since then. I am now a few months from my graduation at Northwestern University. Despite the fact that I am not entirely satisfied with my current level of the problems listed above, I am coping much better than I could have without Open Sky. I am set to go to Aspen Music Festival and School this summer and graduate school at Arizona State University this Fall.

Your newsletter was a great start for that. The words of Rumi are inspiring and are helping me let go of many recent disappointments. My path is going in a little bit different direction from where I thought I wanted it to go and those "sorrows" are "clearing [me] out for some new delight." Please continue with your newsletter and let me know of any opportunity that could help keep me on my path of/to wellness.


Anonymous former adult student

I was transferred to a treatment center in Utah which unfortunately lost funding, and now I am at a boarding school in Maine which I will graduate in June. I keep in touch with my friend James who also went to O.S. Wilderness and to the treatment center in Utah and we both agree it was one of the best experiences of our lives. I continue to practice yoga and meditation everyday, and I'm a lot more conscious about what I eat now that I had 'junk food day' with Jade. I hope you're all doing well…

Michaela (update March ’09) (adolescent girl spring '08)

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Parent Testimonialsfamilies-hugging

"Hi's obvious that you've accomplished something for which words are in many ways inadequate (at least if it's a father talking).  Only silence seems capable of encompassing my's clear to me that our son is experiencing real hope and joy and also real fear, as he comes closer to becoming what he would describe as living the life of "a normal kid."

I hope your life is good and you're enjoying the spring. I guess we may have our own personal spring, right here.

Father (adolescent boy, '07)

Courtney H ('06), who was 14 years old at the time and a member of the inaugural Young Girl's group at Open Sky just finished her first year at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff.  She is majoring in Sociolgy and minoring in Psychology.  The bottom line is that Open Sky's holistic program helped her begin her journey to becoming the best Courtney; just as she is.  Courtney's risky behaviors have "gone to sleep" and a lioness' fighting spirit to accept every challenge and overcome every obstacle has emerged.  Going "toe to toe" with her ADHD condition, she increased her GPA from 2.0 (middle school) to 3.5 (high school).

original girls group summer '06At NAU, Courtney has been greatly challenged academically & has kept fighting through everything to do her best, which is what Anne and I always wanted her to do; whatever the outcome.  Although she had a boyfriend challenge just before finals this 2nd semester, Courtney did not let this situation get the best of her.  Courtney utilized the Buddhist principle of changing poison into medicine and used this potentially distracting situation as an opportunity for her growth; especially in the realm of mental toughness.  Throughout her first year of "freedom", she did not revert to any of the behaviors that she used in the past to deal with this and many other challenges and obstacles.  Our family communications grow with each passing month.

Courtney will be working as a waitress at a seafood restaurant in the Western shore of Maryland.  Courtney worked there as a hostess for 6 weeks last summer.  At the end of the summer, the owner actually apologized to her that he did not hire her earlier when she first applied.  It really made her day that her boss thought that she was a good dependable worker.  He then hired her for a waitress position, where she would be able to earn $100/regular shift and $600/holiday shift.

In the depths of our hearts, Anne and I know that, Open Sky's program, which combines the spiritual, mental, physical and emotional life aspects and administered by its great staff helped Courtney break the cycle of negative cause and move toward a positive direction.  As an expression of our appreciation and gratitude, we always recommend Open Sky with absolute confidence.  Just last month, I shared Open Sky with a colleague who had a friend, whose child was displaying risky behaviors similar to our Courtney.

Sherman (father Courtney, 3rd from left in photo)

Danny:  thanks.  It seems like forever ago that Dylan graduated from Open Sky but it's only been 2 months!  Dylan is doing well at (a program) in Bend OR.  He certainly went from one extreme (wilderness) to the other (Bend is quite beautiful and hip) and he enjoys Bend very much.  I know that Dylan got so much out of his experience at Open Sky (he's eating much healthier foods and taking much better care of his body) but it still amazes me how much I, as a parent, got out of it as well.  The wellness weekend that Andrea and I attended was the icing on the cake - I often reflect back on what I learned there.  Your commitment to the students was so apparent and that went for everyone - from Pam his therapist and Norman who were both tough and inspirational to the guides and the rest of the staff.  Best regards to you all.

Myron (father to Dylan, young adult, March '10)

Dear Open Sky staff,

As far as lives go, you've changed not only Alyssa's, but mine as well. A year ago at this time, I remember worrying almost every minute about what her future held. She was a recent graduate of your wilderness therapy program and after eight weeks came back a "different" person, or at least that's what I prayed for. After the years of hearing lies and experiencing terror at what she was choosing to do with her life, I really wanted to believe, but reserved actual confidence in the process for "later."

Now is "later," and I wanted to share with you her amazing successes since she was taught by you all to again be the bright light she had been before she chose to drink and use drugs.

First and foremost, she has been sober since September 2008.

She spent lots of time at home after her wilderness experience, working, getting counseling and gaining confidence in herself.

She was able to interview and restart as a freshman this fall at Tufts University.

While I was back in Boston for Parents' Weekend, she took the field on the varsity soccer team for the first time since her teammates the year before sent up an emergency flare about her drug and alcohol use.

She made the Dean's List for her grades first semester.

She has joined the Army ROTC program, (her nickname is "Von Doom.")

She plans to go to medical school and work for Doctors without Borders, after her service to the Army.

I am so lucky to being crying tears of joy for her. Thank you for that because I am positive that her experience with your program and your staff was the catalyst.

I believe,

Kirsten (mother, Alyssa, young adult Jan. ‘09)

Hey Heather,

I was just thinking about you. I was thinking that as soon as life slows down a bit I wanted to write you a long letter. Let's be honest my lfe is more like a white water rafting and enjoying being in the moment leaves little time for long letters. So i'll take a moment right now, let the dishes wait. Hey you did wash those pans the following day right? :)

Thank you. Thank you for an amazing experience. Thank you for being honest and open. Thank you for your comfort. thank you for holding space for me.

I got back to Durango to find that my non planning had allowed Spirit to make me be still. I was stuck in Durango for three days no rental cars in site. So I did what I was told. I simply let the experience settle within me. I allowed myself to feel and I walked a lot. As much as I wanted to go off exploring it became very clear to me that what was needed was just some time to let it all sink in.

I think I may still be doing just that. I have some what lost track of time. I have been focused when I needed but I have also found myself more centered, lighter and free to just be.

I don't know how our family weekend was in comparison to others. I am sure that they are all beautiful in their own right. I almost shy away of trying to bring words to the experience because it felt so profound.

I want you to know....

I feel deeply honored

I honor all of the energy and souls who have been laying the framework before I ever arrived

I honor Heather for enabling sacred healing space

I honor Emily for witnessing and holding us

I honor Chris for his reverent presence.

I honor Kelly for her gentle nature.

I honor Iris's smile that melts hearts

I honor my daughter for being present for being vulnerable and honest and helping me define myself

I honor myself for showing up trusting and giving all I could give

I honor Pat and his burning fuel of life

I honor the desert that purged my soul.

I honor the air that dried my tears

I honor the fire that brought us together and warmed our hearts

I honor the sacred rock that gave me strength and reminded me of our connectedness

I honor the sun for giving me guidence

I honor the sweet smell of sage that brought a smile to my being

I honor the tarantula that was drawn to the light

I honor the rattle snake for reminding me of boundaries

I honored the sand that taught me: discomfort was not personal

I honor Wilson for vocalizing what was being felt

I honor the wall because it was revealing

Those three days were lived fully and almost out side of time and space. Thank you to the Open Sky for cracking my heart even further and giving it fortitude at the same time.

Blessed are we !

So I realize I owe you an ice tea... any time you are in the neighborhood, I am good for it. Blessings on your day. With much gratitude,

Hildi (mother, adol. girl, Oct. ’09)

Hi Danny,

thank you for the email.  Loved receiving the email, you are doing a fabulous job!

Lauren is doing very well. She is going to school at Boise State and working on a  Pre-Med degree and loving getting back into the school groove. Some days are a bit more difficult than others, but I am so proud of her hard work. She is working a great program with AA and is slowly meeting some friends. Lauren has living on her own in a neat apt. near school. The two of us had a

nice dinner tonight.

Again, so many thanks for the fabulous experience that you provided for our family.

BIG HUGS, lots of love,

Leslie (mother, young adult July '09)

Nicola ~  What a wonderful surprise (to hear from you).  Our daughter should be your "poster child".  She is doing amazing!!  She is finishing her first semester at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona.  Nicola, I swear, you would not believe this is the same young girl you met almost 3 years ago.  She is so centered, happy, at peace, motivated and just a joy to be around.  She has also stayed sober.  You will love talking with her.  She has worked very hard to reconnect with her brother and sister, and they have responded very well to it.  We are heading out to Arizona tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving with her and our other children.  It will be the first holiday we will all be together since she went to Open Sky's.  I am very excited.   I am sending you her e-mail and phone number.  She still does not like the internet, so, if you really want to connect, a phone call is the way to go.  I will send your info to her and tell her you are trying to reach her as well.

I must say that hearing from you today is great timing.  We owe so much to you, and have much to be thankful for.  Without you and Open Sky, Barry and I would not be on our way to Arizona tomorrow and have the good fortune to enjoy a holiday with our family intact.  So, simply...Thank you   Happy Holidays!

Annie (mother, adult student, Aug. '07)

Hi Danny.  This is Abbe (mother of Alex, Jan. ‘09)  Great newsletter!  I forwarded it on to Alex.  Can't thank you guys enough for the kindness and guidance you gave to Alex.  He has ups and downs in aftercare but progress is in a forward and positive direction.

Attached are 2 poems I wrote: The first was while he was in Open Sky, the second was right after he came out.  Anyway, these represent the before and after Open Sky for me; the therapy I received, second hand, from Alex's experience.

Thanks again to ALL of you.

Abbe (mother of young adult, Jan. ’09)

December 2008: Untitled

My son – Where are you?

Hope-the life preserver

I throw to you.

Trust and honesty – lost

but, like a Phoenix, rise from the ashes of Utah.

Love – at times a noose waiting to end my pain,

But always there and always unconditional.

Hope – the life preserver I cling to

As I throw the same to you.

January 2009 ~ The Light

Your eyes seemed vacant, where was the light?

Your smile, a distant memory.

Your posture stiff with the weight of unbearable burden.

Your grief was also mine.

From wilderness you come, light in your eyes

Your pain a fading memory.

The shell has cracked, your spirit freed

Tall with pride, you walk toward the future.

Your joy is also mine.

Poems by Abbe (mother young adult, Jan. '09)

Danny ~ Thank you for sending the Open Sky Newsletter.  When I read through the testimonials of parent and students, I get very teary eyed.  My son, Stefan, was there in October and November of 2007.  Open Sky saved my son's life.  I am so grateful for this wonderful program, and I know Stefan is too.

Best wishes to everyone at Open Sky,

Lenora DiGrazia (mother, adol. boy Oct/Nov '07)

,Danny ~ Our daughter just completed her first full season of collegiate varsity soccer and remains sober through all the parties this time around (15 months of sobriety and going strong...) We will always be grateful to your amazing team for the invaluable emotional intelligence skills she learned through your organization. Rock on!

Martin Fox - proud parent (young adult, Jan. '09)

Pam ~ I just watched the video on your new website.  It is great and makes me miss all of you.  You truly have created a place of healing and enlightenment, even for those unwilling participants.  (Children and parents alike)  I forwarded this along to a few family members so they could get a feel for where Justin started his journey.  I must thank you again for all the help you gave to our family and especially the support and friendship you gave me.  Peace & Love to you,

Wendy (parent adolescent boy, Aug. '08)

Hi Stephanie ~ I really appreciate the care Ryley (Adolescent boy Fall '09) and his parents/step-parents received from Open Sky.  I believe you run a first class therapy program.

At graduation, I was in awe of what Ryley has accomplished at Open Sky.  I also have been very impressed with the staff I have met or communicated with at Open Sky.

Ryley had mentioned he might want to return as a guide someday. I think that would be one of the best things he could do for himself as well as carry forward the great life skills he has learned.

Thank you for all that you do!

Doug (father adol. boy Oct. '09)


It is rare to have such a long newsletter.  This is consistent w/everything about Open Sky.  Open Sky does things right.

An update on Courtney (Aug-Oct. 2006): She attended one academic year and graduated from The Oliverian School (Pike, NH) in May 2009.  In a little over one month, she will start college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Sherman (father adol. girl Oct. '06)

We feel that Open Sky's program and especially the loving staff helped her stop her downward spiral and helped her gain a foothold on her journey to rediscover the real Courtney, a beautiful young woman with a limitless potential.

Sherman, father of adolescent, Summer '06

Thanks is a very small word that doesn't even begin to express the deep emotion of gratitude and hope I feel that is directly related to my journey with Open Sky.

Lynn, mother of adult, Summer '08

I credit Open Sky with saving my son's life- I continue to have overwhelming gratitude for your program.

Mimi, mother of adult, Spring '08

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for Open Sky. What you are doing there is so real and so effective. You all make me so proud of the human race! I have always been a spiritual person but felt as though I'd lost some of that recently. You, not only brought it all back to life within me, but reminded me of my own path. What you all have done for my family is profound.

Linda and John, parents of adolescent, Winter '09

Open Sky has assembled the best and the brightest in wilderness therapy. You are dedicated professionally to the students and to each other. You love your job and it shows! The weekly family group conference call is the most useful family comfort too. It facilitates communication and progress in all other aspects of the program.

Binka, mother of adult, Summer '06

With deepest gratitude and appreciation for teaching, holding and guiding my son into finding his heart and soul.

Michael, father of adolescent, Summer '08

You all are an amazing group of people and it is so easy to see that you guys are truly there to help each and every one of those kids there. You guys all helped turn a very bad situation into a very positive learning experience. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. God Bless You

Debbie, mother of adolescent, Winter '0

Open Sky was a critical step in Madeline's journey to health. It was also invaluable to us as parents. We began the growth process towards family healing. You taught us to expect communication with our daughter's therapists, to demand that we remain part of the team. Good thing, too, because this difficult process depended on us to be Madeline's advocate from afar. We had to learn how to express our occasional disagreement with therapeutic treatment while remembering that Madeline's well-being was a shared goal with her caretakers. You focused our eyes on the prize.

Karen, mother of adolescent, Winter '06

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Wellness Weekend Testimonialswellness weekend

Gail Hersey, mother adolescent boy (May '09) wrote a letter and also provided us with an inspiration painting. Gail Hersey letter and painting


Great newsletter.  The wellness weekend was very productive for (my wife) and me.  We stayed in Durango until Monday morning and enjoyed a slow paced and restful Sunday afternoon and evening before the trip home…which was everything but restful!

I must say that y’all are the real deal---you are what you say you are---and that is so refreshing and comforting to us as parents in the midst of a tough time.  I mentioned (a retreat center) to you briefly and you should check them out.  It is a top of the market medical spa/resort with a focus on holistic and integrative practices…medical, spiritual, physical, emotional…the whole package.  You can go there for everything from a vacation to a full work up or anything in between.   (My wife) and I went to their facility in Mass. about 5 years ago (I went as a reluctant husband) and it changed our lives in terms of nutrition and personal health.  In an interesting twist, the wellness weekend offers components similar to (this retreat center)…but clearly with a different target market and purpose….

…I hope we get to reconnect when we are there for our family (quest) and (our son’s) graduation at some point. Our youngest son has been asking us about details ever since we got home.  He is anxious to get to Open Sky to share the experience with (his brother)—and reconnect with the brother that he sorely misses.

Thanks, again to the whole team for the weekend.  You deserve the praise and I am quite sincere in that expression.

Kind regards.

Father (adolescent boy, Sept. ‘09)

PS.  Am getting ready to do my evening meditation before bed and also talked to one of my hiking friends about a trek this weekend.  My wellness plan is in motion!

Hi Nicola, Norman and Ruben,

It was an amazing weekend, and I have already spoken to a number of people about the depth of your collaborative work and your wisdom. I have sent E-mails to some of my networks as I know there are families struggling with similar teen and young adult challenges. Experiencing your work and dedication was paramount to my being able to share with direct knowledge....expect alot more knocking on your door!

I came across this quote and thought it said alot about the OS work...amazing how awake Schweitzer was in his own way....

"If there is anything I have learned about men & women, it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident. Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released. (Hu)mankind is waiting and longing for those who can accomplish the task of untying what is knotted, and bringing these underground waters to the surface.” ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Blessings and gratitude to you all, Jennifer (mother, winter '09)


Thanks so much for touching base. She (Meagan May ‘08) is finally settling in to life at home – it has been a transition for all of us. It still seems so weird to think of where we were not too long ago. We had a talk about how she is doing, what she is doing, how she is handling things, etc. last night that made me feel so good about the choice that we made. She is stronger and getting better every day. Thanks again to all of you – and I will be sure to let her know that you asked about her. Greetings and well wishes to all of you – I think of you often and hope only the best for you and the lives that you all touch!

Sincerely, Susan Klein (mother, update winter '09)

Dear Emily,

Our daughter (Apr. ‘07) is asleep on the couch, on a home visit. She'll graduate from her therapeutic boarding school in August. Next step is one of two very nice boarding schools in New England, choice needs to be made soon!...but either would be fine...allowing a transition back to the more normal educational world.

On the whole, she has done amazingly well in the past year. It's turned out to be very good for her to get away from home and I think she's learned a lot of (good) things about herself and what she can do.

So, thanks again, parent of adolescent girl (update Winter ’09)

An update from our first adolescent girl from summer ‘06:

Hi Emily,

I can't tell you how much I appreciate how well-cared-for I felt with you as our liaison to Open Sky while Sam (July '06) was there. Thank you for being so conscientious and compassionate in handling our suffering and guiding our recovery. I have grown enormously from the experience.

Sam's, while not happy about being at (her boarding school), is adapting well and likes both her mentor and counselor. The head therapist indicated she could graduate from there in 11 months with diligent effort, although Sam said she hopes to do it in 14-16 months. My hope is that she will see the merit in finishing the program in a timely manner and have the opportunity to spend her senior year of high school either here or someplace like (a boarding school). I'll keep you apprised of her, and our, progress.

My best wishes to you and all of the staff - Mitch (Update Mar. '09)

Hi Emily,

Our trip to (aftercare) was just great! Even when Victoria was experiencing sadness she did really well and stayed grounded. She was talkative, open, loving and bright! Even caught her humming in the backseat. Never asked to use the phone or stray from our agreement.

She was very teary when we reached (her new program) but seemed to be really impressed with the place once inside for a tour. All of the girls and the staff were at the Equine facility. She was nervous about meeting them and whether or not they would accept her into the group. Understandable. I know, if she continues to be herself and speak from her heart they will love her.

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for Open Sky. What you are doing there is so real and so effective. You all make me so proud of the human race! I have always been a spiritual person but felt as though I'd lost some of that recently. You, not only brought it all back to life within me, but reminded me of my own path. What you all have done for my family is profound. I will never forget you, Norman or any of the staff that I was fortunate to deal with during this time. How you have managed to put such an enlightened, intelligent, passionate and caring group together is just amazing to me and John. Your ability to bring out the highest in people, especially kids who are desparately struggling, is nothing short of miraculous!

We are not a wealthy family, but if I should ever come into wealth, I will bestow much of it to Open Sky! I truly mean that.

Please send any potential families my way for a referral anytime. I will be sure to tell them what a gift they will be giving to their child by sending them to Open Sky. If I can help in anyway on your work to get Wilderness Therapy accepted by insurance companies, let me know. I'll do any work needed here on the East Coast.

So much love, gratitude and admiration,

Linda and John Leland (parents of adolescent girl, winter '09)

Dear Danny,

I want to thank you for sending us the newsletter. It is nice to hear about what is going on with Open Skys. As for our family, we cannot tell you how much your program did for our family. It has been almost 2 years since our daughter (Aug. '07) was there. She just completed her program… in December and will be attending Prescott College in Arizona . Although this journey was a long and at times very painful one, if it was not for Gregory, Pam and Nicola I truly do not think we would have understood what we were up against. I just want to tell you that (she) so far has turned out to be a great success story and your program can be very proud for what they contributed to her story.

Thanks Annie (Update Mar. ’09) (mother adolescent girl summer '07)


Honestly, Anne and I were not sure we were doing the right thing when we sent Courtney (Oct. '06) to Open Sky Wilderness. Our educational consultant, who knew Aaron, recommended Open Sky. We simply reacted to the quickly deteriorating situation and placed our only daughter into the care of some unknown strangers running a wilderness program. We were so unsure of ourselves--in choosing wilderness, in choosing Open Sky. It was at the Parents' Weekend that we saw clearly that we did the right thing. Every parent should attend the parents' weekend. Each one of the staff get a chance to show the parents what they are "made of"! By the end of “our daughter’s” program, we felt that Open Sky was the best in the country with the most innovative ideas and the most promise. We have recommended Open Sky to anyone who needed direction in this area.

Sherman (update Mar. '09) (father adolescent girl, fall '06)

Hey to Aaron, Danny, Emily, Nicola and everyone else,

We feel that Open Sky's program and especially the loving staff helped her stop her downward spiral and helped her gain a foothold on her journey to rediscover the real Courtney (Oct. '06), a beautiful young woman with a limitless potential. She has gone beyond our imagination. After Open Sky, she attended (a school) in Montana. There, she achieved all 6 levels in her emotional growth program. She was the "rock star" of the school. She did well academically (9-11 grades with a GPA of almost 3.4). She learned to ski (and) she sang acapella in front of the whole school.

She is in her senior year (one year ahead of schedule age wise) at (a school) in New Hampshire. It has approximately 50 students on a 2000 acre working farm. She is doing quite well. Her GPA at this school is a healthy 3.52.

She has applied to 3 private schools and 4 public schools in New Jersey. So far she is still waiting for her first acceptance. One private school placed Courtney on their wait list for a decision by May 1st. We are waiting for replies from the 4 state schools.

Sherman (update Mar. '09) (father adolescent girl, fall '06)

Hi Danny,

Thank you for the beautiful pictorial and newsy reminder of Open Sky. Six months has passed like a lifetime for me! A quick update to your staff about our daughter, Catie (Nov. '08) , who is now at (a program) in Arizona. Just last week she moved up to Phase II, mostly because of the emotional work she has done (there). We have spoken to her twice since then and she is, I'm not kidding, a different child. She has faced her dishonesty and untrustworthiness through the support of her community, her willingness to attempt difficult work is blossoming and her desire to reconnect with us at home is a delight to my heart.

The seeds of this recovery were planted during the 73 days she lived at Open Sky. So often those seeds take time, and so much cultivation, to sprout long after the Utah dust has settled. Please let Emily D, Norman, Nicola, Jade and all the field guides who walked side by side (literally!) with Catie know that the gift of their time has been rewarded, and the budding has begun.

I look forward to hearing from you all and seeing the new website (although I found the old one quite lovely and manageable).


Marji (update Mar. '09) (mother adolescent girl fall '08)

Dear Danny,

I was so excited to get this e-mail. I have been thinking about Open Sky and the experience Christina (Dec. ’07) and I went through with Open Sky. There is so much on my mind about it, but I won't go into it at the moment. I really like the idea of the newsletter. Now she is living in Denver. She was working at Home Depot and liked it, but got laid off. She is going to attempt going to the Aveada skin care school in Denver. We will see. She seems happy most of the time, but I don't see her often because I live in Longmont and work in Loveland.

Please give my best to the Open Sky family. Christina got so much out of her stay. The skills she learned to help handle her panic and anxiety have been invaluable to her.

Thanks again for everything,

Elizabeth Lange (update Mar. '09) (mother, young adult, winter '07)

Just a quick email- as I am headed off to work. I credit OS with saving my son's life- I continue to have overwhelming gratitude for your program. Keith (July ’07) has been at (an adult transition program) for the last 2 years, and is starting college in the fall. I will forward this email to him. Thanks for the updates.

Mimi (update Mar. '09) (mother, young adult, summer '07)

Hello, Danny,

It was very nice to receive your email and the Open Sky Newsletter. Although it's been almost 3 years since Madeline (Sept. '06) was at Open Sky, I still recognize some of the names and photos. Our memories of Open Sky are positive ones, which is surprising given how stressful that life experience was. I still remember Madeline's graduation from your program as one of the most moving, spiritual events of my life.

I'll gladly give an update on Madeline's progress since moving on from Open Sky. She came to you as a 15-year-old misfit, after years of depression, self-injury, and drug use. Following completion of your program, she spent a successful year in residential treatment….in Utah. Given that she had cut off all contact with her old friends at home, Madeline decided to enroll at a structured, non-therapeutic (but supportive of those who have been in a therapeutic environment) high school in Burlington, VT. She will graduate in June.

Madeline is a well-adjusted, socially comfortable 18-year-old. She's quite self-aware and has never relapsed, even during her summers at home. Her black wardrobe has been replaced with flannel shirts. According to her advisor, Madeline is a quiet leader, knows her own values, holds others accountable, yet avoids the girl gossip. She is a straight-A student and teaches the school's Stained Glass class. Madeline was offered a significant merit scholarship from Mills College here in the Bay Area, her first choice of college, so she'll finally be returning "home" to live.

Most importantly, she's happy. She's learned skills to mitigate life's anxieties. Madeline has internalized the respect for nature, healthy food, and hiking that she was taught at Open Sky. She's more fit, 20 pounds lighter, practically medication-free, and comfortable in her own skin. Her communication skills and ability to express feelings are phenomenal, yet she's developed an appropriate balance between vulnerability and discretion.

Open Sky was a critical step in Madeline's journey to health. It was also invaluable to us as parents. We began the growth process towards family healing. You taught us to expect communication with our daughter's therapists, to demand that we remain part of the team. Good thing, too, because this difficult process depended on us to be Madeline's advocate from afar. We had to learn how to express our occasional disagreement with therapeutic treatment while remembering that Madeline's well-being was a shared goal with her caretakers. You focused our eyes on the prize.

We will be forever grateful to the Open Sky program and warm staff.

Best wishes, Karen Martin (mother, adolescent girl, summer '06)

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