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For Those Who Never Stop
Exploration is finding the thing we love and relentlessly pursuing it. That pursuit is embodied by people around the globe.
Two exemplary athletes, Kaitlyn Farrington and Jimmy Chin, from The North Face global athlete team are profiled for pushing themselves to the edge of their physical and intellectual possibilities.
The North Face has also partnered with the Department of the Interior to donate $100,000 in grants to 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) program heroes. The heroes, Jeremy Taitano, Anthony “Chako” Ciocco, LaJuan Tucker, and Team Rubicon, are each being recognized with a $25,000 grant to their program because they embody the spirit of NEVER STOP and invite others to participate in active outdoor stewardship.
It was not a big jump, just 10-15 feet popping over a small cement wall in the backyard of a hotel in Austria. Kaitlyn, a 2014 gold medalist in Sochi, dropped in. At the lip, she twisted her body to set up for a frontside 360, but she caught her heelside edge and lost control, landing hard on her back and neck.
As a professional snowboarder, Kaitlyn had experienced many bad crashes, and this one hardly made the top ten. But when she tried to get up, nothing happened -- her body simply wouldn’t respond. Just as the reality of being paralyzed began to sink in, a burning pins and needles sensation began to slowly spread across her body.
It wasn’t until two weeks later that a doctor, pointing to an X-ray pinned to a light table, revealed to Kaitlyn how she’d been born with too little space between her vertebrae and spinal cord. She would have to retire from competition, he said, but if she stayed out of the pipe there was no reason she couldn't continue snowboarding. Kaitlyn vowed to never let this setback crush her spirit.
Instead of dreaming about icy half pipes and further Olympic glory, Kaitlyn had used her world-class snowboarding skills to reinvent herself as a big mountain rider. Just a few short months ago, it seemed that all was lost, but an obstacle that had at first appeared insurmountable, had instead opened a door.
In his award-winning film about his ascent of the daunting Shark's Fin on Mt. Meru, Jimmy Chin attempts to answer the question we all want to ask: Why? What is it that drives someone to risk everything in pursuit of a virgin summit, a first ski descent or a one of a kind photograph? The answer is actually quite simple: Because exploration is in our DNA. Sure, for some people like Jimmy Chin it erupts more forcefully than in others, but the need to explore our limits -- be they geographical, physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual – is something that burns inside the soul of every human being. And we think it lies right at the essence of what makes humankind great.
This spirit of exploration has always pushed Jimmy to go further, to dig deeper, to climb that next pitch or capture that last photograph. And while pushing himself relentlessly to be the best at what he does, you could say that he has come to embody what it means to be a modern explorer. For Jimmy Chin, true exploration is a process where success is measured not only in summits, but in how many people he can inspire to explore their own human potential.
Team Rubicon is a nonprofit, disaster response organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Founded by two Marines following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, Team Rubicon seeks to provide veterans with three things they lose after leaving the military: a purpose, gained through disaster relief; community, built by serving with others; and identity, created by joining a new mission.
Team Rubicon was selected for this honor because its veteran talent embodies the “Never Stop” ethos; at the forefront of disaster response missions, these veterans personify the courage and reward that lives at the outer edge of our physical and intellectual possibilities.
Student Conservation Association
Jeremy Taitano isn’t your typical 21-year-old. A Temple University student and parkour enthusiast, Taitano grew up on the island of Saipan. This U.S. territory is revered for its breathtaking coral reefs and marine life. The beauty of his homeland was not lost on Taitano where, as a young child, he saw first-hand the impact of climate change on his beloved island home. This fostered a commitment to conservation and inspired him to join the Student Conservation Association (SCA).
His desire to inspire others to care for the planet and treat fellow human beings with respect is what drives him to continue his work with the SCA. The SCA is receiving a donation because it exemplifies the spirit of exploration by inspiring the next generation of conservation stewards. Taitano is a model SCA leader who inspires young men and women to follow in his footsteps.
Anthony “Chako” Ciocco
Anthony “Chako” Ciocco is changing the lives of young Native men and women one conservation project at a time. Chako leads the Ancestral Lands program on the Navajo Nation under Conservation Legacy’s Southwest Conservation Corps. Under Chako’s leadership, Native youth work to rebuild damaged ecosystems and develop recreation infrastructure. Through this process, they help provide outdoor access to community members, revitalize the landscape, and reconnect with their land, culture, and language.
As a traditional Mvskoke person, Chako holds cultural preservation very close to his heart. Chako is a role model for citizens who want to be pioneers of change in their environment. His program is receiving this donation because of Chako’s dedication to his community, culture and stewardship.
LaJuan Tucker’s commitment to community service began as a young woman growing up in West Philadelphia, PA. The neighborhood of her youth was riddled with violence and addiction, but Tucker was determined not follow in the footsteps her peers. Choosing instead to direct her talents toward transforming lives through community service, Tucker began tutoring students and mentoring Navajo community members who, after a period of substance abuse, sought reconciliation with their community.
This volunteer experience inspired her to join American YouthWorks, where she served in the organization's Texas Conservation Corps program as an AmeriCorps Crew Leader. Following her American YouthWorks position, Tucker became a Park Ranger II with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. She is one of few African American women to assume this position, and she draws on this experience to inspire young people to follow their dreams.
Tucker’s program, American YouthWorks, is receiving this donation because of her dedication to encouraging more young people to pursue conservation careers and preserve the great outdoors.