When he was 16 years old and in need of some direction of his life, Neil Falkners mother sent him to Outward Bound. The two weeks he spent in the wilderness of B.C. were a defining experience for Falkner, who would later move to Whistler to become a ski patroller.
"He told me many times that (Outward Bound) was the best thing I could have done for him," said Judy Lynn, Neils mother.
Neil died on April 12, 2002 while on a ski traverse across the Wapta ice fields in Banff National Park. He was 32.
To celebrate his life and his love of the outdoors, friends and family of Neil Falkner launched a scholarship fund in 2003 to put other high school kids through an Outward Bound program. That first year, with the help of donations from his friends and $1,500 from Whistler-Blackcomb, the memorial fund raised enough money to send a youth from Neils old high school, Britannia Secondary School in Vancouver, to Outward Bound.
Now in its third year, the memorial fund has slightly more than $9,000 in the bank enough to send two youths to Outward Bound this year, with enough leftover to almost cover next year as well. It costs about $2,700 for a 17-day Outward Bound program.
In recognition of the time Neil spent in Whistler, the second scholarship will go to a student from Whistler Secondary School, who will be chosen in the coming weeks by the schools guidance counsellors.
Rather than invite applications and get the usual overachievers, Neils friends and family decided the best way to make an impact is to offer the program to youth that are like Neil when he was 16 people who wouldnt necessarily apply on their own, but would benefit the most.
"We thought we would leave it to school counsellors who know the kids best to offer (the scholarship) to kids who may be in transition, or are financially disadvantaged, or are marginalized in some way, or are struggling," said Lynn. "The idea was that maybe they would go out with Outward Bound and gain some confidence or direction."
The students that are short-listed for the scholarship are given an application form with two questions: how will Outward Bound help them, and how will Outward Bound fit in with their relationships to school, friends and family.
Focussing on the scholarship program has helped Lynn and Neils friends to come to terms with his death by keeping his memory alive, says Lynn.
"Speaking for me, it helps me to stay connected with Neil through his friends and the life he lived in Whistler. The scholarship for me is very healing its a way of keeping his memory alive and a way of giving to other kids something that was really valuable to him and to his life," said Lynn.