Overcoming Obstacles, On and Off the Course

As participants ran or walked through powdered color throughout the course, volunteers assisted them in where to go. The entire course was dubbed as “challenge by choice,” meaning participants could opt out if they wanted to do so. However, they were encouraged not to skip an obstacle, but rather to overcome it. 

This the third time the event has been held, previously taking place in 2018 and 2019. The idea for The Gauntlet came when Kale Dabling, Adventure and Youth Activities Coordinator at Boys Ranch, was training for events such as the Spartan Race and the Tough Mudder. Some of the residents would notice Kale and his teammates training and asked to also participate. Because residents could train but not actually take part in the events that adults were doing, Kale and his supervisor thought it would be a benefit to those at the ranch to host its own obstacle course race. 

The Gauntlet took more than 10 hours of planning and over 30 hours of physically setting up the course. 

“It goes through several stages and morphs along the way. We start with the general concept, figure out the route, decide on the obstacles, place the obstacles on paper, change the route, change the obstacles, and do this several times until we can provide the safest, most fun event possible,” Kale said. “We like to try to provide some different obstacles each time so it’s not the same challenge every year. About a week before the event, we start gathering the supplies for the obstacles and staging them around the ranch. The evening and morning before start time we mad dash setting up everything, mark the route and communicate with the volunteers. This event would not happen if not for the volunteers that offer up their time to help make this happen.” 

The Gauntlet took more than 10 hours of planning and over 30 hours of physically setting up the course.

This year there were many residents who not only participated but asked to run the course a second time. Kale said that large scale events such as The Gauntlet have a lasting impression because it gives those involved something in which to look forward, talk about and remember.

Residents Cristian and Kasey participated in The Gauntlet together because of their friendship. The 15-year-olds have found a sense of community in one another. When it came time for the Gauntlet, Kasey was excited for the event. 

“I would have done it no matter what, even if I had to do it alone,” Kasey said. 

However, the morning of the Gauntlet, Kasey asked Cristian to join him. 

“I was going to just stay home, but Kasey asked me to do it, so I changed my mind,” Cristian said. “It was really fun to do it with a friend, and having a friend do it with means a lot. I think going through something like that together just bonds the friendship more.”

Both boys said that taking part in the event together made it even more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

“I just thought it would be fun,” Kasey said. “Some of the teams would split up along the course, but we never did that. Friends should stick together no matter what.”

Adventure events like The Gauntlet are fun and exciting, but they also allow residents to test themselves and their abilities.

Boys Ranch operates under its Model of Leadership and Service, which represents six universal needs. Those needs are safety, belonging, achievement, power, purpose and adventure. While adventure certainly applies to events such as The Gauntlet, Kale said that the Youth Activities Coordinators are not the only places on the ranch that provide those opportunities.

“Adventure for an individual could be stepping out on stage for One Act Play for the first time or making a dish for the culinary competition. It could be taking an ELP (Experiential Learning Program) position for the first time or playing a sport,” he said. “Adventure in any form is vital as it allows us to grow, adapt to the unknown and as we conquer these fears and trials, our self-worth, self-respect and confidence increases. Adventure by its very nature is difficult, and we do difficult things because it makes us better people.”

Houseparent Emma had not done a challenge such as The Gauntlet in the past, but decided to try it after hearing residents talk about how much they enjoyed the event. It was not an easy course, but she persisted and saw it through to the finish line.

“I wanted the residents to see that they can do the same thing,” she said. “It’s like life. It can be hard sometimes, but you have to push through it. I think events like this are amazing because it gives everyone a sense of community and belonging.”

Kale said that events like The Gauntlet and annual cardboard boat race are fun and exciting, but they also allow our Residents to test themselves, their abilities and fear thresholds. 

“It provides them with an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone try something new and thrilling, and possibly learn more about who they are, what they are capable of and henceforth gain self-confidence and self-respect. We design the obstacles to be a mix of fun and easy to challenging and difficult, but not impossible,” he said. “We often tell residents, ‘Yes you can. You are stronger than you think.’ Knowing that with the support of the Boys Ranch staff, our residents are indeed strong enough, they can overcome difficult things and that they are not alone. These things have life-long impacts on the residents, as well as the staff.”

Faithlynn, 15, started the course with a team of nine. Although her team split up and did not finish at the same time, each of the girls crossed the finish line.

“It’s important to get out there and have fun no matter what,” she said. “We might not have finished at one time, but we are here to encourage others to finish and be strong.”


Overcoming Obstacles, On and Off the Course

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