Flshback: "Getting Personal: Rhode Trip"
Todd Blount featured in Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine
The Joy of 'Paying It Forward'
By Warren Thayer, Editorial Director
When Todd Blount was a boy, he learned valuable lessons about faith, leadership and the outdoors at several summer camps in New Hampshire. Since then, he’s been paying it forward.
The camps helped him prepare for his role as president of Fall River, Mass.-based Blount Fine Foods. And today, Blount is also part of a group that helps young men develop leadership skills and build their love for the outdoors and their Christian faith.
His early experiences sparked his lifelong enthusiasm for the outdoors; his senior project in high school was a two-week hike through the Smokey Mountains. “I hadn’t yet done any backpacking, and this was a hike of about 150 to 200 miles. In those days before the Internet, I had to prepare by writing to the park service for information, and then I hitchhiked into the park,” he notes.
Blount’s college summers were spent on the staff of Camp Brookwoods in Alton, N.H. But then, shortly after graduation in 1989, “Life happened. Business. Family. Kids. I didn’t do a lot of backpacking anymore.”
But his love for the outdoors — and faith-based youth development — came knocking. Blount became more involved with Camp Brookwoods again, and today he is chairman of its board. A decade ago, he and some friends founded Rhode Trip (www.rhodetrip.org), a 501c(3) charity that takes its name from his family’s ties to Rhode Island.
Rhode Trip is a six-year Christian leadership development program that Blount describes as akin to a Christian Outward Bound. Boys enter the program in eighth grade, and each summer they spend a week in the outdoors with experienced staff “to explore what the Bible teaches us about leadership and character.”
“We take the boys into the White Mountains and challenge them. They do backpacking, canoeing and learn outdoor skills,” Blount says. “They often push themselves more than they ever have before. Both my sons are in the program now.”
It’s all pretty grassroots. Blount and about 10 friends volunteer in leading the trips. They don’t charge the kids any money, and they use all their own equipment and resources to make it happen. Blount doesn’t pressure vendors to help, but quite a few who have heard of it ask to donate money or supplies to help cover the expenses of roughly $500 per child per week.
There have been four graduating classes so far — this past year’s group raised money for a trip to Haiti together. And kids in the program and their parents get together monthly for fellowship, games, lessons and just hanging out. Blount enjoys both his camp board meetings and his time leading trips in the White Mountains. “I get both sides,” he says.
But he and his friends missed getting outside for their own backpacking trips. They were also getting older, and didn’t want any rust settling in. So about 10 years ago, when they had already locked in a time for their annual ski trip, they decided to climb 3,478-foot Mt. Chocorua instead. The winter climb has become an annual event.
For those not familiar with the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Mt. Chocorua is a rugged climb even in the summer. Steep trails in the range of nine miles round-trip can be challenging in hiking boots, let alone in snowshoes. But the views from the bare rock at the summit are spectacular, and make it all worthwhile — provided you don’t freeze your butt off .
“That first year we did it was just awful,” Blount recalls. “We didn’t have any good equipment or money to buy it. Now we have good equipment, and it seems to get easier every year. It’s painful, but each time is different.
ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE “We’ve been blown off the mountain by storms a couple times, when some of us wanted to quit. But then somebody would say, ‘Okay, we’ll try again tomorrow.’ It’s all about attitude and not giving up easily. That’s what we want to share with the kids.”
Shared from March 2015 issue of Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine. See the full issue here.