COLS Program Leadership

Bruce S. MacDonald


Let me say a couple words about trip safety and my leadership experience. Some of the boys who have been invited on COLS trips are new to COLS; they and their families know me through church, other activities, or coaching basketball. For those of you who know me in these contexts, I think it is also important that you know my qualifications to lead a trip like this as you consider having your son participate. I bring in-depth experience on the hiking/climbing/wilderness travel and safety side.

I also bring experience teaching, and hopefully living :), on the leadership and Christian side too. I am also very involved with my own family. Beth and I have been married for 28 years and are active as parents raising our son Brint. Below I will touch on my experience and qualifications that contribute to the quality of the COLS program.

I have significant experience in wilderness travel. I was fortunate to go to a boys camp myself from ages 6-14 for two months each summer where hiking and backpacking were major aspects of the camp. My camp experience had a significant impact on who I am as a person - which is part of my motivation to provide these opportunities to others. During my summer after college I ran the camp trip department and planned all the trips including gear, food, first aid, hiking routes, trip itinerary and logistics. These were multiple day-long and week-long trips for 75 boys. Since 1999 I have planned 1 to 4 COLS trips, and have personally led 1 or 2 trips, each summer. All these trips have been 5-12 day outdoor adventure trips.

I have also planned many personal backcountry trips. (In none of my major mountaineering trips have I hired a guide - I have hired guides to learn specific things but I have always run my own trips.) These trips include 5 mountaineering trips to the Alaska range, twice to climb Mt. McKinley, once to climb Mt. Huntington and twice to different routes on Mt. Hunter. On the McKinley trips I was on the mountain for 25-30 days and on the other trips I was on the mountain 2-3 weeks. I have also climbed Mt. Robson, which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We reached the summit, though the mountain has some distinction in climbing circles as one of the least summited peaks in an elite group of top peaks in the world. I have hiked and climbed in Colorado, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Washington State (summiting Liberty Cap and Mt Rainer via Liberty Ridge, which a difficult, technical route), New York, West Virginia, France, Canada and extensively in New England.

In addition to my own experience I have studied various aspects of wilderness travel and safety and have taken several classes on these topics. These classes include a wilderness medical class. I have the Wilderness First Responder Certification. In addition to myself, there will be at least one other experienced leader who has also completed the Wilderness First Responder class.

There is a degree of risk whenever you are in the mountains, whether you are climbing Mt. Monadnock or Mt. Everest (which one of my climbing partners is climbing right now), but the goal is to mitigate this risk by being prepared and making good decisions. At COLS we take safety seriously. There is no bravado about these COLS trips, the goal is to have a fun enriching experience. We don't need to summit any mountain. We strive to strike the balance between challenging ourselves and being comfortable turning back. This is an opportunity for each boy to have a genuine adventure experience in a real mountain environment at his own level. The emphasis is on personal growth and development.

I also bring experience in the teaching of leadership, having run a real estate investment banking firm since 1996. Many of the leadership principles taught at COLS are things that we have done with our company. At COLS there is an emphasis on leading yourself (some of which comes from Dee Hock, who founded the Visa Card). On the spiritual side I am personally trying to pursue a relationship with God. It is an ongoing journey. I have led many Bible studies, have been involved in youth ministry, and specifically taught preteen/teen classes for over 10 years. Based on my experience with wilderness travel, leadership, faith, and working with boys of this age, COLS is able to provide a genuine adventure experience. The intent is that this will allow everyone who participates to have a good time and have an opportunity to learn at a variety of levels.

With COLS my desire is to give back, to use my talents and interests in a way that will benefit others. I love giving kids an opportunity to learn at a lot of levels (physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual), all in the context of a having a good time in a genuine outdoor adventure.


Patrick Crawley

Assistant Director

My experience with COLS began in 2003. I was 12 years old and I was just beginning to develop my personal relationship with God. Built like the average pre-teen, I was short and skinny, lacking much strength. I had very little experience rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking or white water kayaking. Fortunately, most of the guys on the trip were in the same exact boat.

From the onset of the trip, friendships where forged. One of the benefits of keeping the groups as small as we do is it encourages the guys to bond quickly. As the trip progressed, it was empowering to be twelve years old summiting mountain peaks and carrying a backpack half your weight. The first few days in the outdoors were very new and exciting. Very few 12 years olds from the suburbs have the privilege of exploring the White Mountains with their friends.

Along with the excitement and fun, was the experience of learning "leadership". It was not the usual leadership experience I was accustomed to where adults follow you around with a schedule and tell you when and how to do things. In previous situations, I would wait until the adult said, "Patrick, it's time to do this, go grab this and that, run back here and I'll check to make sure you did it." With the COLS experience, I was encouraged to lead myself. A specific example of leading yourself on COLS would be waking up on your own, making breakfast for a hungry group and assembling your gear without prompting from any staff.

After those first few days in the woods, we all started to grasp the concept of "lead yourself". One guy would self-elect to get water, another would start cooking and a whole crew would start washing dishes without any prompting from the leaders. This repeated every morning. We got into a routine of taking the initiative to make sure our tents were taken down and our bags were packs. The adults did not have to remind us because we were (in a small way) in charge of ourselves.

The spiritual aspect of the trip deepened my understanding and relationship with God. I was asked to think and write about what kind of person I wanted to be when I got older, as well as the goals I should set for myself. It was a new experience for me to have time to go into the woods with little distraction or stress and have a quiet time with a pen and journal. This allowed me to reflect on my present relationship with God and the concept of God's grace given to me through his son Jesus.

There are too many fun memories to name. My favorites were riding down a natural water slide in a river, climbing a boulder as big as my garage, playing ultimate frisbee on a beach, and playing tag in a huge boulder field.

When the trip was over, I had a strong bond with those new friends and developed some amazing new habits. I began setting and tracking goals, along with having quiet times with God. The leadership experience also helped with my parents - they noticed I had more self-initiative.

I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to go on COLS as a young man. I truly believe that the without the experience, knowledge and friendship I gained from the leaders on COLS, I would have grown up much differently.

The fun memories, friends and Christian lessons I learned on COLS are why I decided to come back as a staff member. I bring the unique ability to relate to the young men on these trips since I was in their same place on the trips not too long ago. In 2010, I became a staff member and during that time I received my Wilderness First Responder Certification and first aid training through the Air Force. My outdoor travels have allowed me to hike and venture through the Colorado Rockies, Spring Mountains and the White Mountains.

I have and currently lead middle school Bible study groups since 2011 through Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV and Trinity Baptist in Nashua, NH.


Andra Foster

Program Administrator

I have been closely involved with COLS for over 10 years. Having led several girls COLS trips in the past, I am currently the Program Administrator.

My son participated in the program for 6 consecutive summers as a young man. He started as a budding camper, and with time, as a college student, became a seasoned counselor.

He still tells stories about the amazing hikes and the growth he saw in himself and the boys over the time spent in the wilderness. As a mother I was very appreciative of the opportunity COLS presented in being introduced to the outdoors. My daughter also attended several girls COLS trips. For her, the friendships she built will last a lifetime and she learned some invaluable lessons about camaraderie and working as a team to achieve goals.

As I reflect on the COLS program, it has enhanced my life, the lives of my children, and the lives of many of the young people who have participated that I have known. It's an opportunity to go on a fun outdoor adventure. The activities often include camping, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and canoeing, but there is a lot more to the program. The kids learn quite a bit about themselves as well as various technical skills. They learn to work as a team doing new and interesting things. For example, they learn to cook creatively without a kitchen (somewhat challenging to say the least).

Being largely outdoors for a multi-day period you find yourself in a 'new world' of mountains, trails, rivers, lakes, sunrises, sunsets, rain, and sunshine. Nature is a wonderful classroom. Learning to handle various challenges and reaching new heights is exhilarating. The time spent with God and in group devotionals in the context of the trip is invaluable. I think COLS is special opportunity for young people to gain life experience - a fun adventure they can build on for the rest of their lives.