Danny Frazer always dreamed of a career path that would allow him to help young people become the best version of themselves. Early on, he envisioned being a leader and role model for young people as a college basketball coach. However, after a summer internship with a Montana-based, family-run wilderness therapy program in 1996, his plans shifted gears.
During this wilderness therapy internship, Danny was inspired by the transformation of a senior student. Danny witnessed the ways in which this student grew in wisdom, insight, maturity, and depth. He was motivated to facilitate this growth for others and witness them transform into healthy, productive citizens in their communities and the world. He started thinking about a career in wilderness therapy, where he could help young people improve communication, overcome adversity, and make healthy choices.
After graduating from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Management, Danny pursued additional field guiding experiences. He worked winters at Aspen Achievement Academy and summers at Outward Bound. In these two roles, he accumulated more than 750 days in the field as a guide and instructor. He led guide trainings, became Course Director and Logistics Manager at Outward Bound, and was eventually promoted to Field Director at Aspen.
During his time at Aspen, Danny formed a professional and personal friendship with fellow guide, Aaron Fernandes. Aaron’s dream was to develop a new wilderness therapy program, with exceptional clinical services, robust family programming, organic whole foods, a solid program culture, and evidence-based wellness practice. Danny courageously and enthusiastically came on board, along with Therapist, Emily Fernandes, and Family Wellness Counselor, Norman Elizondo.
“I was excited by the idea of doing something audacious and something even more consistent with my vision and values,” Danny expressed. “I trusted that Aaron had the skillset and wherewithal to be a strong leader. I wanted to support him in manifesting this vision.” What initially felt like a pipe dream became reality in 2006 thanks to the Open Sky founders’ passion and dedication.
Since the beginning, Danny has been an integral part of the Open Sky team. Throughout the years, he has skillfully directed Operations, Field, Marketing, Business Development, and Admissions. Now as Program Director, Danny oversees the Field, Operations, and Medical Teams and is Chair of Open Sky’s Risk Management Committee.
For Danny, one of the best parts about being at Open Sky from the beginning is seeing the impact the program has had on people’s lives, from students to staff and beyond. It is special to see a student’s life transform; to see that individual live a more fulfilled life with strengthened relationships. “It sounds cliché, but it’s rewarding to know we play a meaningful part in helping our staff and students go on to improve the world.”
Danny is also committed to and highly regarded in the industry at large, taking an active role in improving and refining the standards and practice of wilderness therapy. He was intricately involved in drafting the standards for the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH) Accreditation and he served as Chair of the OBH Council from 2016-2018.
Since the OBH Council was formed in 1997, it has worked hard to foster connection, trust, collaboration, and learning between wilderness therapy programs. “It’s important to be part of the wilderness community beyond Open Sky,” Danny noted. “It is beneficial to everyone that we don’t operate in silos; that our collaboration and unity continuously move our industry forward. When the greater wilderness therapy community flourishes, so do our students and their families.”
It is also gratifying for Danny to see how Open Sky has become a part of the Durango, Colorado community. The organization’s infrastructure creates sustainable employment in the Southwest Colorado area. “The early years came with the inherent challenges of getting an organization up and running,” he said. “It’s wonderful to now see how we contribute to this remarkable town as an organization with traction, momentum, and work/life balance.”