Seven years ago, I was walking through Genesee Valley (GV), headed to the office. There was a group here: the laughter of children, yelling “brake team ready! Zipping, zip away!” could be heard through the valley. I was on my way to talk to the staff and let them know what had happened. But before I got there, I sat down and listened to those sounds. So much happiness, so many voices alive and forming memories and becoming better communicators.
As I got up, I had changed my mind on what I had started out to do, yet I still needed to talk to the staff. That day, September 2nd, 2010 was the day that changed everything. It was the day that I lost my husband and Genesee Valley lost their founder and our leader, Tom LaMonica.
I proceeded to tell the staff, our “family,” that we would continue to keep GV going, the GV that Tom had envisioned and created so many years ago and allow his spirit to continue on here. Back in the 70s, Tom would bring his football teams for preseason training out to GV from Friends school where he was a teacher and a coach for 40 years.
As Tom went through his master’s program at Towson University (TU), he got involved with some professors there and they talked about Experiential Education, aka learning by doing, and they started a pilot program for the outdoor education department at TU. Soon, Friends School started bringing students to GV for camping trips and confidence courses that were based on Experiential Education.
In 1981, Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center incorporated as a non-profit educational facility. Since then, tens of thousands of people have come to this beautiful valley either to watch their child play sports on the fields that Tom envisioned and created, come to our summer camp that Tom envisioned and created, or have come as a group to experience GV’s extensive challenge courses that Tom envisioned and created. We are still growing and following the mission that Tom envisioned and created.
Even though we lost a husband, a father, a founder, and our leader, Genesee Valley is doing some amazing things to this day. However, we could not be doing them without the dedication of our dedicated staff and our board of directors. So, that morning when I came so close to closing the doors of GV forever, I truly am grateful for the participants that were all here that September 2nd day … and everyday after that. -Jane