Earlier today the phone rang at the camp office. An old staff, from the earlier years of MTC, Colby Hall, was calling to pass along some tough news. Dan Forman, MTC Staff Alum, Ropes Course Director, Trips Leader, Story Teller extraordinaire, had died. Dan was a very young and super healthy 46.
For those of us whose history with MTC dates back any time before the 2000’s, Dan was a good friend. For those of us (like me) who started working at camp in the mid 90’s Dan was a role model and guide to working with kids. His sense of humor, work ethic, and absolute commitment to always put campers first was obvious upon first meeting. Campers climbing Dan’s ropes course for the first time were made to feel comfortable and safe, yet capable of besting new challenges. Returning climbers arrived early and often, as ready for a bad joke or tall tale as they were to meet a new challenge. All left more confident, with possibly a mistaken understanding about the possibility of toe transplants…. For those who were lucky enough to accompany Dan on a hike to the most magnificent hill of all, Blueberry Hill, or a service trip to Acadia National Park, they would return to camp tired and with a new appreciation for the beauty of nature, and the value of a day in the sun.
Luckily for all of us, Dan’s MTC career was just one stop on the way to his most important work. Dan used his love of camp and his philosophy of outdoor learning to found a program in his beloved New Orleans called LOOP (Louisiana Outdoor Outreach Program – http://www.crt.state.la.us/parks/iLOOP-NewOrleans.aspx). Dan was aware of the multiple benefits for academic and social achievement that outdoor programming could provide. Indeed, his own life had been improved by summers spent at camps in Maine. He was also aware of the acute need for beneficial and unique programming for under-served youth in New Orleans. So he did what few of us do. He did something about it. Dan fought, for well over a decade, with his heart and soul, for something that he knew mattered. He knew theLOOP program could make a difference, and could reach kids who seemed out of reach, or who some may have seen as not worth reaching. Dan was different. He knew that every kid could be reached, and was worthy of his time and attention. To Dan, every kid mattered. It wasn’t easy for him, funding was always an issue. But the kids his program served didn’t know that. They just knew a guy who inspired them, who inspired his colleagues around him, to love nature, and to cherish the time we spend out in it, with each other. Since 2004, Dan and the program he started have served thousands of kids, and you better believe he made a difference in their lives. The ripple effect from this one mans life is too big to imagine.
Dan Forman leaves behind a big hole. He had big arms, and a bigger heart. I would say he wore his heart on his sleeves, but those were usually cut off. Regardless, you knew where Dan stood, and what he stood for. He was an advocate for kids, and for our environment. I’ll think of Dan when I hear that summer breeze sigh through the pine trees, when marveling at the perfect Maine night sky, or perhaps most importantly, laughing while watching (and quoting) old Simpsons episodes
No one should spend too much time thinking about their own end. Regardless, think about this. What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? Dan lived his life to serve others, with humor, intelligence and authenticity (keepin’ it real!). The example he set has, and will continue, to inspire others. As it should.
Thanks Dan, for everything.
For more info on Dan’s legacy, see