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June 23, 2016 • Headline News
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Beyond home: The trip to Yellowstone
Outing exposes local teens to life outside of county

Mary Mattingly

Seven Ripley County teens will embark on a 14-day adventure to one of the country’s most popular national parks, thanks to the generosity of local organizations and individuals. The Milan, JCD and South Ripley students will have the opportunity to see nature and wildlife up close that otherwise they might see only on TV or read about in books. The non-profit American Youth Outreach Unlimited (AYOU) provides the chaperoned trip, expense-free to the selected teenagers. Kendall Hankins one of the local founders along with Jim Waldo, figures they have taken 24 local teens to the park over the past six years. These deserving teens were chosen from a field of applicants who expressed a desire to experience what’s beyond their home.. “For many, this might be the last chance to see what’s outside of Ripley County,” Hankins said. The schools work with the organization to identify students, preferably juniors, who then fill out the application and write an essay on why they would like to attend.

Kendall Hankins photo - Bears at YellowstoneKENDALL HANKINS PHOTO
Pictured is a sow grizzly bear and her cub. These animals have been spotted at previous Yellowstone outings.

The 2016 AYOU scholarship recipients are: Karl Hoffrogge and Evan Smith, both of Milan; Taylor Carroll-Ordis Perry and Jeremy Burton, all of Jac-Cen-Del, and Mikayla Elam, Courtney Guerra and Morgan Clark, all from South Ripley. The Kiwanis, Lions clubs, Tri-Kappa and other local civic groups have contributed to raise the $1,400 it costs to send each student to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming. This covers the cost of camping equipment (sleeping bags, tents, etc.), travel, food and even spending money. They usually take 4 to 6 students.

The chaperones, such as Hankins, pay their own way and often use valuable vacation time from work to attend. For Hankins, who has figured he’s spent 600 days at Yellowstone over the past 15 years, it all connected when he took a teenager turkey hunting years ago, and saw how the experience and the mentorship benefited the student.

“For me it’s an opportunity to give someone a “new” dream. For the first time in most of their young lives something has come along that is completely and wholly designed around them. We want them to dream new dreams and understand that the boundaries in life are nothing more than opportunities to build upon,” Hankins said. He wants them to look outside the box when it comes to people and their surroundings. “I say to them reach further, beyond your comfort zone, and past the point of what used to be impossible and run with your dreams.” More importantly, AYOU is about friendship and trust. “Most of all they know before, during and after the trip they have a friend for life in all of us.”

The first time they went there were five adults with the group, and this time they’ll have the same, but both men and women. Initially, the program was only for males, but they got more women chaperones so they could open it to female students as well. Margie Nickel of Friendship Bank is returning to go again as a chaperone. They will leave July 3 and it will take about 25 hours to reach their destination by car, with a stop in South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Badlands, before they arrive to the national park in Wyoming. He hopes the group sees not just bear, mountain lions, elk, antelope, etc., but an ecosystem that needs to be kept intact for generations to come to experience as well. Again, it’s a trip of a lifetime, but moreover, a chance to reach a dream for many. While they have raised the funds necessary for the trip, if anyone is interested in donating for next year’s trip, email Kendall Hankins at or call 812-756-2339.

Local Bulletin Board

Deadline: Friday, August 5
Tyson Fund grant applications available
It is almost here! What you ask? Many years ago, before Jim Tyson passed away, he wanted to set up a system to perpetually assist the residents in Versailles with things that might otherwise increase their taxes. He decided that he would set up a trust so that groups that are nonprofit and hold an IRS 501c (3) or (4) exemption could request funds to help them out with projects that would otherwise fall on the taxpayers in the Versailles area! Each year about this time, an open application process is offered so that the Tyson Fund Trustees can decide what projects will benefit from this year’s trust distribution. To qualify for the funds you must be from/in the Versailles area. Must be nonprofit and must hold an IRS 501c (3) or (4) exemption. To learn more and find out how to apply pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican dated May 26.

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