Fourteen girls around a campfire at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are participating in an activity called, “Stand Up for Your Sister.”  

Each girl fills out a questionaire.  No names..identical pens.  No one can tell who's is whose.  The completed papers are shuffled and handed back to the girls.  No one knows who's they have.  As we read through the questions, if the answer to that question on the paper they are holding is affirmative, they step forward.  No peer pressure.  No embarrassment.  An eye-opening experience as girls discover they are not alone in their struggles.  And we catch a glimpse into their world.

“I sometimes feel unsafe at school.”
10 cross the line
“I feel overwhelming pressure to lose weight."
8 cross the line
I have at least one family member who uses alcohol or drugs excessively."
8 cross the line
“I have experienced bullying or abusive language from a
    teacher or coach."
12 cross the line
“I think my family is proud of me."
7 cross the line
“I have an adult in my life I can trust."
5 cross the line
 “I have witnessed violence in my family.”
9 cross the line
 “I have experienced unwanted pressure to drink alcohol, have sex, or send nude selfies."
13 step across
"I have gone farther with a boy than I intended."
8 step across
"I have done something God can never forgive me for."
14 cross the line
"I have thought about killing myself."
14 cross the line
"I have bullied someone."
11 cross the line
"I have been bullied."
14 cross the line
"I feel not matter what I do, I'm never enough."
10 step across
"I have at least 1 friend I can trust."
4 step across

The activities and venues come in all shapes and sizes.  So do the 6th, 7th & 8th grade girls who participate. Casual observers see Elk Rapids and our children as living in an idyllic world.  But listening to the girls who live here, a more troubling picture emerges.  Regardless of their age, grade point, or level of affluence, the lives of girls in the Elk Rapids community mirror the conclusions of studies nationwide – our teenage girls are in crisis.  Absent fathers, predatory boyfriends, family breakdowns, unhealthy role models, bullying, negative social media, the sexualization of everything -- unrealistic expectations attacking their self-image from every angle.  In some cases adults are failing in their responsibility to support and protect them; requiring them to make adult decisions while they are still children, and leaving them feeling lost, inadequate, fearful, ungrounded and betrayed. Even in the healthiest families, the negative messages aimed at girls can be overwhelming.

 
Dr. Meg Meeker, of Traverse City; pediatrician; nationally recognized author, and advocate for girls states that 25% of her teenage female patients cannot name a single adult who loves them.

Tom Wacker, counselor at Cherryland Middle School in Elk Rapids states one of the primary reasons girls come to him is due to self-image issues brought on by a lack of positive support in their lives.

Positive youth development pioneer Dr. Peter Benson of The Peter Benson Sparks Fund states that no more than 25% of American teens have the level of adult support that leads to healthy development.

Studies report that one-third of middle school girls have thought of killing themselves.  Experience has shown those numbers to be shockingly true in the Elk Rapids community.


Studies repeatedly show the connection between negative adolescent self-image and depression, early sexual activity, poor grades, anti-social behaviors, teen suicide, single parenthood, and low future income potential.  What others, especially adults, are speaking into adolescent girl’s lives affects them profoundly, either positively or negatively – for the rest of their lives.  Tools are needed to counterbalance the lack of positive, and the overwhelming negative messages, being spoken into their lives by society, the media, their peers, and sometimes the adults closest to them.

We can wait…until a child is abused…until a poor choice leads to another teen pregnancy…until another girl grows up and thinks an abusive husband is normal…until another college sophomore decides life isn’t worth living…OR, we can step in, dramatically and creatively, in this small community to address the overwhelming issues all our girls are facing and work to give them the support, encouragement & message we already know they need – to work proactively and collectively to develop programs, activities, and opportunities to do battle against the destructive forces around them.

Since 2011, Right Tree has been helping girls discover their worth, their gifts, their voice and their future by providing positive input and experiences.

Right Tree weaves the fun, excitement and adventure of outdoor recreation, adventure programming and community service together with opportunities to share, discuss, and address important issues in girls' lives.  In safe, secure settings, in groups, and one-on-one with capable, supportive staff, girls discover their intrinsic worth, share their unique gifts, learn the value of their voice, catch a vision of their unlimited potential, and have FUN, FUN, FUN!

Any day can have us focusing on topics like social media, relationships, modesty, boys, bullying, drama, or the lies in our lives -- all in the middle of crazy sports nights, book clubs on the beach, cooking, art, drama or water-themed weeks, night hikes, outdoor movies or bonfires on the beach.  Multi-night trips to Sleeping Bear Dunes, to an island for our own version of The Hunger Games, zip-lining, backpacking the Porcupine Mountains, kayaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or helping renovate low-income homes locally or in inner-city Detroit, all provide amazing opportunities to speak into girl’s lives in creative, challenging, and life-changing ways.

Our Summer Adventures  programs are open to to any girl living in the Elk Rapids school district or attending Elk Rapids schools through school-of-choice. Drop-in events, day-camp-style weekly themed programs and multi-night trips offer a full range of experiences.  Programs are offered on a donation basis -- families pay what they can afford.  No one is ever turned away for financial reasons.

2015 brought limited school-year activities -- game nights, movie nights and community service projects to help us keep in contact and reinforce our message with girls year-round. 

What Right Tree is doing is not difficult.  But it is vital to healthy development, and it IS missing from many girl’s lives – voices intentionally emphasizing girl’s value and worth within a safe, healthy environment where they are heard, supported and encouraged.  To experience and celebrate the outdoors.  To discover fun away from electronic distractions.  We work proactively  -- helping girls develop the confidence and skills to make healthy life choices when those decision arise and to believe and live in the truth that they were created for a purpose, that they bring unique gifts and talents to the world no one else does, that they are enough just like they are today, and that they are growing into someone even more amazing.  Our vision is to change the expectations and experiences of girls in the Elk Rapids community so that every girl's reality matches our motto: EVERY GIRL MATTERS!

While Right Tree is not specifically a Christian organization, and welcomes anyone regardless of their beliefs, every person involved in leadership has a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As we work through issues and questions facing teens, Jesus will be part of those conversations because He is part of each of our stories.  Our foundational belief in the inherent worth and potential of every person comes from the knowledge that we are each uniquely created by a God who loves, celebrates and dances over us.
Each summer we hire college-age staff with degrees, or completing their degrees in education, recreation or social work.  All have a love for junior high age kids and all bring extensive experience working with youth in a variety of recreational settings.  They have a passion for sharing their stories and speaking positively into girl's lives.  Our programs are very staff-driven around the gifts and talents each staff member brings.  Employees often return for multiple summers but we are always excited to welcome new staff to the Right Tree family.
Right Tree is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors. At present the President also operates as the program administrator.

President - Craig Mosher
  business owner, founder of Right Tree
  ElkRapids
   (231) 645-6282

Secretary - Gerry Mayes
  Friend of the Court, 33rd District Court
  Elk Rapids
  (231) 675-5761

Treasurer -  Bruce Banwell
  independent contractor/youth ministry consultant
  Bellaire
  (231) 620-1725

Director - Beth Pryde
  Wellness Consultant Metro Fire Department
  Elk Rapids
  (231) 632-0776

Director - Jeff Hawkins
  independent consultant & founder of HOPE CSA
  North Manchester, IN
  (260) 414-1626

Director - Lindsay Banwell
  Great Lakes Water Permitting
  Bellaire
  (231) 350-8967
   P.O. Box 544, Elk Rapids, MI  49629
(231) 668-8220 phone    (866) 470-6533 fax
right.tree@sbcglobal.net
www.righttree.org

  • Right Tree is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Contributions are deductible as allowed by law