2011 Memories: Christmas Message from the Pannells

Dear Chrysalis friends and family,

We feel so fortunate to write once again about the joys and blessings of another year during this Christmas season 2011. Our spring began with an international trip to Morocco with 9 girls and 5 parents. The trip featured adventure in the form of a four day trek across the Sahara (with camels), two long days of touring across the Atlas Mountains, four days of service work at a youth shelter in Marrakesh, and plenty of cultural immersion along the way. If you’ve never seen stars at midnight from the desert, never bargained with the vendors in a world class market reminiscent of ancient North Africa, or never smelled the gentle aroma of a string of camels, your life is sadly incomplete.

Our runners were fantastic once again this year. About 12 girls ran the Bloomsday 12K Run last spring along with 50,000 other participants. One of our girls broke the one hour barrier that separates great runners from the rest of us. It was a weekend full of fun and excitement, as always. Five strong girls trained for and completed the Two Bear Half Marathon in Whitefish in early September, our first entree into the world of truly long distance running. And, a slightly different group of five brave girls and two staff trained for our second annual “Freezer Burn” race, a 10 mile run in 28 degree temperatures and snow this past weekend in Missoula. It seemed like such a good idea in September. The seven participants felt proud, accomplished, and somewhat frosted at the end of the race.

The summer of 2011 was as full and rich as it gets, from the grandeur of Lewis and Clark’s Upper Missouri River to the great outdoors of northwest Montana and Alberta. Aided by strong support from parents and staff, our students once again tamed the trails around Bowman Lake in far northwest Glacier National Park. The trail work was formidable, and the hiking a challenge due to uncommonly cold and wet weather, but our girls prevailed in the end. We did a service project for the U.S. Forest Service in our local Ten Lakes Scenic Area in September, and otherwise completed about 1,350 total hours of service work in and around the Tobacco Valley in 2011.

Chrysalis girls biked around much of Koocanusa Lake with a handful of family members over Memorial Day weekend, and another group camped and hiked in Alberta’s Waterton National Park with parents and a sibling over Labor Day weekend. A group of six girls and two staff backpacked in the Mount Henry area just west of Eureka in mid-September to complete our overnight adventure trips for the year. We boated and sailed on Flathead Lake most Saturday afternoons across the summer, per usual. A summer full of rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, swimming and boating left them all, inevitably, fit, unwound, confident and ready for the mental rigors of school.

We completed a renovation on our previous school building this past year, which is beautifully transformed into a lovely new clinical space that houses all our therapists, and has become the venue for a variety of groups and meetings each week.

Our soccer team overcame a slow start again this year, but (as usual) finished very strong in October. The group of girls matured enormously across the season; each individual on the team seemed to be involved in a parallel growth process, which has clearly become the norm for our soccer players. It was a joy to behold. We played each of our usual rivals twice, and we were excited to be able to play our local Eureka coed team a couple of times again this year. It was a soccer season that made us proud in the best sense of the word.

We began a new era of Mother-daughter and Father-daughter retreats this past year to insure that our parents are experiencing some of the same first-rate adventure that our students enjoy every season. Mary and several of our clinical staff led the first retreat with a group of Mothers in early February, set at the Belton Chalet in West Glacier, just outside the entrance to Glacier National Park. Moms and daughters did some XC skiing and snowshoeing during the day, and then did some gentle relationship work each evening.

Fathers got their chance in late June when 14 dads and daughters journeyed to the Missouri River in central Montana to launch our first Father-daughter canoe trip. We followed the Lewis and Clark route for three days, complete with short day hikes and a bit of history. Each retreat featured great adventure and focused time each day for critical family work led by members of our clinical team. We can’t imagine a better way to bring parents and their kids back together again.

Thanksgiving, as always, made all the extraordinary preparation quite worth it. Family members traveled from the ends of the earth last month, gathered together, and, as always, forged new relationships born of a magical shared experience. The Chrysalis Thanksgiving tradition continues to set the standard for heart-warming holiday cheer, deep gratitude, and cozy connection every November.

We extend our most sincere “thank you” to all who journeyed to NW Montana this year to join Chrysalis, whether for an adventure trip or for a more sedate family gathering. We wish for each of you, no matter what your faith or belief might be, a holiday season full of warm memories, cherished friends, beloved family, and unwavering hope. God bless you each one.

With love at Christmas, Mary and Kenny