The Pam & George Wendt Foundation Strives to Provide Greater Access to Rivers

3 Min. Read
KIPP Navigate group poses for a photo near the South Fork of the American River

The Pam & George Wendt Foundation continued its mission to promote diversity and inclusion in the rafting and outdoor community throughout 2021. Despite ongoing challenges related to the pandemic and drought conditions in the West, the Foundation provided dozens of whitewater rafting trips for under-resourced youth and young adults as well as four raft guide school scholarships for deserving applicants in Utah and California. 

On the South Fork of California’s American River and Utah’s Colorado River, The Pam & George Wendt Foundation hosted over 150 youth and young adults on one-day whitewater rafting trips with OARS. The vast majority of these enthusiastic young people had never had an opportunity to float a river. Some of the organizations that received subsidized trips this year included: 

“We have always wanted to take our youth out on a water adventure like river rafting, but because of the high cost, trips like these were out of reach for us and many families,” says Alberto Murillo, director of youth programs for Peralta Hacienda, which facilitates outdoor experiences for youth in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. “The Pam & George Wendt Foundation helped us finally offer our youth the opportunity to get on the river. This was such an amazing and important experience for us.”

Pam & George Wendt Guide School Scholarship recipient Michael Ruelas

In addition to free and low-cost rafting trips, the Foundation provided more than $5,000 in funding for four raft guide school scholarships, including an equipment stipend provided by NRS. Michael Ruelas, Emaline Lubinger, Stevie Soto and Gabryl Sam were chosen from a pool of over 25 qualified applicants. Both Michael and Emaline completed the OARS California Guide School and were hired as professional guides on the American River. Gabryl and Stevie finished OARS Utah Whitewater Guide School. Gabryl used his skills in his position with the Navajo Nation’s Department of Fish & Wildlife while Stevie continued on as an OARS raft guide in Moab, Utah, working commercial trips on the San Juan River and in Cataract, Desolation and Westwater Canyons through to the end of the season in October.

“We had two amazing scholarship recipients,” says Bruce Lavoie, OARS Dinosaur regional manager, “It was great having Stevie; she did a really good job and earned every bit of the employment opportunity we offered her. Gabe is awesome. We would’ve been very lucky to employ him. Enthusiasm and positivity and a sense of adventure just boils out of him.”

Participants in OARS California Whitewater Guide School practice their skills on the South Fork of the American River.

The Pam & George Wendt Foundation Guide School Scholarship application for 2022 is now available. New to next year’s scholarship, recipients who are offered employment on the American River will be offered free Wilderness First Aid and CPR training through a grant from Sierra Rescue. These classes are mandatory for all OARS guides.

About The Pam & George Wendt Foundation

The Pam & George Wendt Foundation was created by veteran outfitter, OARS, with the vision to connect young people to one of the world’s greatest resources—our wild places. By partnering with OARS, the Foundation has access to river rafting permits, skilled guides and a multi-use camping facility in California. The Pam & George Wendt Foundation provides meaningful guided river rafting and outdoor adventure experiences for under-resourced youth and young adults. 

Our goal is to provide access to the outdoors in order to help foster the next generation of environmental stewards and active outdoor enthusiasts. We believe that outdoor adventures can empower young people, promote personal well-being, and inspire them to discover a deeper appreciation for our rivers and environment. Since 2015, The Pam & George Wendt Foundation (formerly the OARS Foundation) has hosted over 2000 under-resourced youth on subsidized outdoor adventure experiences. 

If you’d like to donate to the Pam & George Wendt Foundation, click the button below. 

The Pam & George Wendt Foundation is a
Utah 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

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