Over the weekend, Grand Canyon Youth held its annual "Rivers and Reels" fundraiser. While primarily an event designed to raise money to support GCY’s amazing programs and operations, the featured films make this event not only supremely FUN, but also one that educates.

Who is Grand Canyon Youth?

This organization began with a trio of river guides who watched people transformed for the better by their encounters with the river. They realized both how powerful an experience this could be for young people, and how little opportunity there was for most youth to access it. After a pilot trip in 1998, Grand Canyon Youth acquired nonprofit status in 1999 and it has grown stronger ever since.

Today, their mission is to, "provide youth, ages 11-19, an experiential education along the rivers and in the canyons of the Southwest in an effort to promote personal growth, environmental awareness, community involvement, and teamwork among people of diverse backgrounds."

Based on the number of GCY alumni who contributed to the weekend’s event in one way or another, it’s safe to say their impact is a tangible and deeply affecting one. GCY participants contributed their artwork to the event’s silent auction, used their filmmaking expertise to showcase the organization’s works, and return to the program to guide a new batch of young people through their Grand Canyon adventures (or other Southwestern river adventures) and educational experiences.

Rivers and Reels

Every year, GCY hosts a film festival and silent auction event featuring films about rivers and river running in general, and, of course, the Colorado! Films ranged from funny to touching, each in their own way, and served to teach a lot about rivers and the importance of their conservation.

The range of perspectives demonstrated by this film selection would make anyone fall in love with rivers. Everything— from the adorable Parker, by American Rivers and Skip Armstrong, which features a young, too-cute-for-words kid showing us the 50 reasons he loves rivers (including, skipping rocks, falling down, rain, and leaf monsters), to the complex Delta Dawn by Pete McBride, which follows a group of paddleboarders as they chase the pulse flow of the Colorado River down to the Sea of Cortez and marvel at the temporarily revitalized Colorado River delta, to the "river carnage" of Jason Caligaris’s Highwater— touches a viewer in a different way.

"Rivers are something that connect us," Emma Wharton explained, as she introduced the evening and its films. Watching pieces like The Important Places (by American Rivers, Forest Woodward, and Brendan Leonard) which shows how a son came to appreciate his father’s adventurous spirit and good nature—traits amplified by a late in life adventure on the Colorado River, no statement seems truer.

Katie Winkleman, a young GCY alumni featured in Connected to the Canyon, expresses another sentiment about rivers that rings true to those who have spent time on them: "Going down a river," she states, "is like an allegory for life." Wise beyond her years, she reminds us all of struggle mixed up with the beauty and ever-growing knowledge and experience, the way we wind back and forth trying to cut our way through deserts and around obstacles, in river running and in life.

And, if we learn anything from this series of films, it’s that rivers bring and sustain life.

Hatch River Expeditions is happy to support an organization that brings rivers into the lives of young people, changing them as they do landscapes—some for the rest of their lives.

To support Grand Canyon Youth, or to learn more about what they do, visit their website:www.gcyouth.org.

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