yellowstoneOur young women welcomed Fr. Scott, as well as the rest of the Mercy Home family, to the Walsh Campus for their Yellowstone Art Show Friday, November 4. The celebration marked the end of a journey our girls began in January of this year.

This opportunity was made possible by Leader Council member Emily Cole, who connected the Home with Park Journeys, Inc. In partnership with Yellowstone Park Foundation and Yellowstone Association, Park Journeys offers a program to teenagers across the country—a chance to deepen their appreciation of nature and spark their curiosity in one of the country’s most beautiful national parks.

Due to limited available spots for the trip, we held a contest. Each program recorded a video showcasing why they should go to Yellowstone. And after careful deliberation, the ladies of Walgreen Home were selected as winners!

Park Journeys organizes their program into three Phases with the goal of optimizing the Yellowstone experience for their participants. For Phase I, our young women needed to ensure they were properly prepared for the trip.

y2First, our young women underwent team building and exercise training at Brooklyn Boulders, a rock climbing gym in the West Loop. They met with parents and co-workers to go over travel plans and program goals, and they shopped for the gear they would need in the wild.

At Starved Rock State Park and the Swallow Cliff Forest Preserve, the girls participated in hikes that simulated their upcoming treks in Yellowstone. They also conducted a community service project, removing hazardous plant species from the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve, which helped them become familiar with plant life and forestry. When their day of departure arrived, our young women were ready for the experience of a lifetime.

For the next stage in their journey, Walgreen Home spent 5 days in Yellowstone, from July 31 to August 6. During the day, the group explored and learned about everything the national park has to offer, from studying wildlife, geology, and conservation to visiting iconic landmarks like The Roosevelt Arch, the Yellowstone Grand Canyon, and the geyser Old Faithful. They returned each evening to Yellowstone Overlook—classic wooden cabins situated in the northern section of the park. There our girls shared family dinners and team-building activities before returning outside to star-gaze—a first for many, if not all, of our city-born kids.

The journey didn’t end when they returned to Mercy Home, however. For Phase III of the project, our young women were tasked with sharing their experiences with their community. To do so, they created a photo exhibition and invited everyone to share in their favorite memories.

y3Our young women were truly grateful for the transformative experience. “Yellowstone was an amazing place,” says Ladonna. “I got close to the ‘nature’ side of myself, which I have never been [close to] before.”

“I had a fun experience with my peers,” says another of our young women. “My favorite moments [were] spending time with everybody and seeing God’s creations.” Many of our young people also shared that seeing bison and learning about the animals inhabiting the park were other highlights of the trip.

Coworkers who joined our young women on their journey noted many positive changes in our kids. “It was a more spiritual connection out there for the girls,” says Walgreen Program Manager Angie Hicks. “They prayed and meditated on top of Yellowstone Grand Canyon. It warmed my heart just to see the connections they were having.”

Special thanks to Emily Cole for making this trip possible, as well as Nikki Sullivan, Amy Schulz, the Walgreen Home staff, and all of our friends and coworkers who helped make the Art Show a success.

See more photos from the Yellowstone journey here.

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