VOBS holds a special place in Ryan and Megan Welty’s hearts. They met as instructors at Homeplace, fell in love, got married, and took many lessons of Outward Bound into their work, family life, and service to community. “Lots of tools that we used out in the wilderness have carried on in our leadership today,” Megan said. As donors who have recently increased their gift, the couple consider VOBS to be an important investment in future leaders.
Born and raised in different rural Minnesota communities, Ryan and Megan met at Homeplace while working as instructors for VOBS in 2011. “Mutual friends purposefully kept putting us in the same place at the same time,” Ryan shares. They wed in 2015 and currently live in Rogers, MN, with their children: daughter Finley (3½) and son Robin (2).
Q. Tell us about your educational and professional background.
Megan: With a degree in Recreation Management from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, I started working for an organization running wilderness trips for people with disabilities and had a few short stints with VOBS in the Twin Cities Center and Homeplace. Most recently, I am running adaptive sports and recreation programs at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.
Ryan: I earned a degree in Outdoor Management from St. John’s University and moved to Montana for a first job in outdoor education. There, I worked with Andy Leider, who had served as a VOBS program director in Montana. In Spring 2011, I moved back to Minnesota and started working as an instructor at Homeplace and VOBS Twin Cities Center. I also started on staff at my family’s HVAC and refrigeration businesses, South-Town Refrigeration & Mechanical and SCR (St. Cloud Refrigeration). I progressed through many different roles there over the past 11 years and have been running the business for the past year or so.
Q. As an instructor, what was your most powerful moment or experience on course?
Ryan: The moment that stands out for me is an experience on the Superior Hiking Trail with a high school student from the Bronx. He was a big-time athlete, yet he was struggling with carrying the weight of his backpack as we hiked to our campsite. At one point, he sat down in the middle of the trail as if to give up. I gave him a trail map and explained that he really had to figure this out as there was no option to quit. The group hiked on ahead, and I watched him from a distance as he gathered his resolve to continue the journey and eventually joined the rest of the group at the campsite.
The powerful thing was that when he arrived at camp, the group was genuinely excited to see him, and he was equally excited to have made it. That was a turning point for him. The lessons he learned about perseverance, self-reliance, and group support would hopefully help him get through other hard times in life.
Megan: Watching young people challenge themselves and push through those hard moments–whether on a climb or a hike–were the most powerful moments that I enjoyed. Some of my favorite conversations involved taking the time to process those experiences with the students. You heard and saw the “aha” moments happen in real time, where students learn something about themselves that they can carry toward their future.
Q. In what way has your Outward Bound experience shaped your life/work/service?
Ryan: I deeply valued creating the space and time for young people to realize it is OK to fail. It is amazing how much learning happens through failure, but this truth has been forgotten in our society. In my businesses, I have found this to be helpful for developing group dynamics and a growth mindset with my colleagues.
Megan: Lots of tools that we used out in the wilderness have carried on in our leadership today. I pull from my experience of wilderness education all the time as I lead groups of volunteers or manage programs and staff.
One of the amazing things I carry with me is knowing how important it is to unplug and check out from the grind to focus on the beauty of nature and what our bodies are capable of. This is a good reminder for us as parents and professionals that we have to take time to check in with ourselves and just be present.
Q. In what way did your VOBS experience encourage you to practice reflection, and what role does reflection play in your life now?
Megan: After evening meals on the trail, I remember taking time to recap the highlights and lows of the day with my students. We still do this around our own dinner table today, even with our toddlers.
Ryan: I have brought a reflection mentality to the leadership team at my work. At our strategic planning meetings, we spend time reflecting on what has happened in the past year to help plan for the future. We always end the meetings with reflections on the day’s events: what went well, what didn’t, what would we do differently. This has become a very powerful practice for our business and has helped our leadership team build stronger collaboration and connection.
Q. What motivates you to support Outward Bound philanthropically?
Ryan: I think VOBS takes wilderness education to the next level, to create really great experiences that help educate youth on how to be comfortable with themselves. I also like that VOBS is staying even more intentionally connected to their alumni lately. And, of course, VOBS has a special, personal meaning as it was the place where Megan and I met.
We believe VOBS does wilderness education really, really well. And we’ve watched it grow in only positive ways over the last decade.
Megan Welty, VOBS Past Instructor and Current Donor
Q. Why did you choose to increase your giving this past year?
Megan: We are very fortunate to have families who instilled in us at a young age the importance of giving back, whether financially or through volunteer service. So this is something that we prioritize as a family, budget for and make happen. It’s an important part of what we believe is our role in the community.
Ryan: We also recently made the decision to focus our philanthropy on a handful of organizations to try to maximize our impact.
Q. Why should others consider increasing their support of Outward Bound?
Megan: A donation to VOBS is an investment in our future leaders. VOBS students are going to be the decision-makers of the future. Knowing how transformative those wilderness experiences were for us, we want the youth of today to get a similar opportunity to grow their leadership skills.
I also believe in the phenomenal VOBS team. Working in nonprofits, I understand how meaningful philanthropic support is. We can’t rely solely on the older generations of donors to invest. As young professionals, we need to step up and do our part. Start the habit of giving back now.
A donation to VOBS is an investment in our future leaders. As young professionals, we need to step up and do our part. Start the habit of giving back now.
Megan Welty, VOBS Past Instructor and Current Donor
—Over the years, Megan and Ryan have remained outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy camping, mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and more. They are patiently waiting for their kids to get a little older so they can have lots of outdoor adventures as a family.