DOUGLAS COUNTY - Last year, as Colin O’Brady was busy completing the fastest trip up the tallest mountains in the world, his broadcasts and blog updates were inspiring hundreds of thousands of kids across the country. When O’Brady made it back to America, a May appearance on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” television program caught the eye of Flagstone Elementary Principal Kelli Smith.
“His whole campaign is about inspiring kids to get out and get active and live healthier lifestyles,” Smith said. “That’s one of the tenets of ours here at Flagstone, and one the District cares about.”
Inspired, she reached out to O’Brady’s organization, BEYOND 72, to try and bring him to Flagstone for a visit.
“I didn’t think it would happen,” Smith said. “But he had an event in Denver and asked if there would be other schools interested in a visit, which might help with the total cost.”
Smith found 14 schools throughout Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, and Parker that wanted in on the experience. After working through the logistics, Colin O’Brady— world record holder for the fastest Explorers Grand Slam Challenge finish— was on his way to Douglas County.
Before O’Brady’s plane hit the ground, classrooms were exploring the South Pole and the Mount Everest base camp with the help of 3-D Google Glasses. Exploring the vast reaches of the globe before they got to meet Colin allowed the students to better understand just how impressive O’Brady’s accomplishments are.
“Anytime you can bring the real world into the classroom for the kids, that’s exciting,” Smith said.
The week turned into a whirlwind tour for Colin and his fiancee Jenna Besaw, who manages BEYOND 72’s adventures, but O’Brady said the visits with the kids were energizing.
“Everywhere we go, I always ask the kids ‘what is your Mount Everest?’,” said O’Brady about getting kids to start considering their goals. “Yesterday, at Cherry Valley [Elementary], one kid told me that his Mount Everest was to help others find and climb their Mount Everest. That was amazing.”
O’Brady went from school to school throughout the Douglas County School District (DCSD), meeting with packed auditoriums at every stop to talk about healthy lifestyles, goal-setting, working towards those goals and overcoming adversity. For O’Brady, his visits with schools are the logical end to this particular journey.
“You meet kids with obstacles in their lives, and it’s great to be able to talk with them about overcoming those,” said O’Brady, who had to overcome devastating burns he suffered to his legs during an incident in Thailand. He says his story of recovery and training to compete as a pro endurance athlete is one he wants to use to inspire the next generation.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” O’Brady said. “Taking incremental steps towards something with purpose can get you through some of those hard times.”
Colin and Jenna made the rounds to 14 different schools in Parker, Highlands Ranch, and Castle Rock during his four day visit with DCSD.
Smith says O’Brady’s visit certainly left a lasting impact on the students he interacted with.
“It was so cool to have a student wanting to check out a book about exploring, and telling me, ‘I need to get my Everest on’,” Smith said. “He’s a young, cool guy that our kids totally connected with, and they can see why we value healthy living.”
(Photo courtesy of BEYOND 72)