Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wild Gift seeks class of 2013

Organization supports young social entrepreneurs

Express Staff Writer

From left, Spencer Brendel, Margiana Petersen-Rockney, Brooke Laura and Micah Sewell celebrate the end of a 16-day backcountry trek last summer. The trip, sponsored by local organization Wild Gift, was designed to give these four young adults a way to develop and finalize plans for socially conscious businesses. Photo by Willy Cook

Wild Gift, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people give back through business, is looking for young adults who want to make a difference.

The organization announced last week that it is looking for applications from people ages 21 to 30 who have an idea for a business that would “give back.” 

Each year, the program offers mentoring from business leaders, financial support for applicants’ projects and membership in a broad network of other social entrepreneurs.

The final piece and keystone of the program is a 16-day excursion in the Idaho backcountry, during which the men and women are meant to plan their projects without the distractions of daily life.

Wild Gift was started in 2002 by Ketchum resident Bob Jonas, the founder of Sun Valley Trekking. 

Wild Gift’s executive director, Deborah Knapp, said the organization’s mission is to support young people who want to start businesses that will help others—social entrepreneurs, in other words—while using wilderness treks to help focus the goals and ideas of the participants.

“It starts with a profound examination of their core values, their strengths and weaknesses,” Knapp said in an interview this summer. “Much of that happens on the trail. [Jonas’] concept was, wilderness is not only a place of solitude and beauty, it’s a place we learn our greatest life lessons.”

This is the organization’s 10th anniversary. So far, it has supported 39 projects in eight countries on four continents. 

Last year’s class of four included Sun Valley native Spencer Brendel, who started an athletic- and social-causes organization called PlayHard GiveBack. Brendel partners with athletes who sponsor products, the proceeds of which go to social causes such as providing clean water to villages in Africa or providing education to children in Tibet.

Brendel said in an earlier interview that due to the time spent on his schoolwork and playing hockey at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and his bartending job, it can be hard to find the space to really make progress on his organization.

“It can be overwhelming, with this project,” he said. “But the most important thing is clarity. [With Wild Gift], you get two weeks to think about one thing.”

Applications for the grant—which includes full project funding for one year—and expedition are due on April 15. Applications are available at

For those who want more information, the Sawtooth Brewery in Ketchum will host an information meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 5 p.m. 

Kate Wutz:

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