Adventure with Purpose


One World Adventure Company mixes outdoor exploration with a mission to improve lives and protect the environment.


PEOPLE SOMETIMES GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO GET others to see their perspective. Some plant political signs in their yards or write stacks of letters to senators. Others decide to live as an example and transform their lives completely to reflect an ideal. They might withdraw from society and live ascetically in the mountains or on a lake’s wooded shores. Some organize boycotts or create spectacles by sustaining themselves on a diet of tree bark simply to get a point across (you can eat pine bark, though I don’t necessarily recommend it).

Bill and Angie Shugart with One World Adventure Company take a more esoteric approach to altering attitudes. They believe that if they can help people develop a capacity for seeing their own actions as influential in larger contexts, this will naturally foster personal growth and environmental stewardship while communicating the power of the individual.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]..

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[s2If is_user_logged_in()]Based in Mentone, Ala., One World Adventure is a nonprofit organization that provides outdoor-education programs for youth, families and educators. Its mission is to equip participants with solid decision-making skills in order to effectuate positive change in their lives and the natural world. The organization also serves as the Little River Waterkeeper.

I speak with the Shugarts as they are wrapping up a rappelling session near Desoto Falls.

Bill, executive director of One World, has spent the last few hours guiding harness- and helmet-clad rappellers over the edge and down an 80-foot vertical mountain face. From below, Angie attended the second belay line rigged up to the climber as a safety brake.

“I feel like when we are out here and we are in the natural surroundings, it’s simple,” says Angie, administrative director for One World. “It doesn’t matter what kind of clothes you have, where you go home to, we are all the same here.”

The rappelling group is varied in age, body type and experience levels. I watched as each made his or her way over the edge. Some seemed to be veterans to the rope and slid down the line as effortlessly as a spider leaves a trail of silk. Others were first-timers, and I could tell they had to talk themselves into taking that first step backwards over the edge.

John Dewey, an influential 20th century educator and philosopher, wrote, “The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” The self, according to Dewey, is in a constant state of flux – something we continually shape and refine slightly with each decision we make.

While individuals are inseparably tangled with society’s influences – the opportunities it grants and the restrictions it imposes – those influences are at heart the collective echo of the decisions we make as individuals. All social change is rooted in individuals’ thought processes. Just as with the self, larger bearings are something we have power to direct – if only we’re aware we’re the ones holding the reigns.

The Shugarts want to instill the empowerment that comes with this idea in the lives of those their organization serves.

One World offers “adventure outings” including hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, camping, kayaking and canoeing trips. It also offers school enrichment programs and summer camps for kids ages 7-18.

Outings and camp activities are designed to supply participants with tools for making good choices, and promote learning by doing. This doesn’t provide rote knowledge so much as it allows students to reflect on experiences and come away with insights they fleshed out for themselves.

People organically gain appreciation for the environment as they spend time in natural surroundings, the Shugarts say, and the waterways and ridges of Lookout Mountain are a perfect setting for this.

“We are nature,” Angie says. “That’s what I like to convey to the kids.

They are part of this natural world. It is important to love it and to love yourself. It is important to protect it as it is important to protect yourself.”

One World offers numerous school enrichment programs ranging from workshops for educators to in-class science experiments, after-school activities and camp packages for second through 12th graders.

Kids from all over the region attend One World’s summer camps, which are priced based on family income. The “Adventure Day Camp,” designed for ages 7-13, engages kids in swimming, hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, kayaking and art activities. For older camp goers (ages 14-18) with a disposition for leadership, the “Watershed Exploration Team” is a five-day trip that involves hiking, camping and kayaking in the Little River watershed while collecting and testing water samples. “We teach them about how we as human beings impact the watershed – things that we can do as human beings to improve the water quality,” Bill says.

Coming from a poor background, Angie – who grew up in Sand Rock, Ala., on Lookout Mountain – says it was important to her to make sure every child who wanted to go to camp could. “I see the kids’ faces as they are experiencing our camps and outings,” she says. “That’s my drive in creating fund-raising events, my drive for going to schools and telling kids that they can come to camp no matter how much money their parents make. At the end of the day, I like to empower kids.”

Bill, a Fort Payne native, studied outdoor education at Montreat College in Black Mountain, N. C. After college, he traveled throughout South America and Europe teaching sustainable living practices and observing different cultures. “I left with the idea that I was going to go and learn and bring stuff back, and what I stepped out and learned is that this is one of the most incredible places that I have been,” Bill says. “In short, that is why I’m doing what I’m doing. When we came back here, we just fell in love with it all over again.”

Little River’s Keeper

Little River Waterkeeper is a newly appointed role for One World Adventure. The Waterkeeper Alliance  is an international environmental organization that works to protect the world’s waterways. As  waterkeeper, One World Adventure acts as the “official voice” for Little River and its tributaries.

The organization is responsible for monitoring water quality and serving citizens by protecting their rights to clean, healthy water. It also takes preemptive measures through education and raising public awareness.

GoodWorks_Proof3 (5-22)_Page_3_Image_0005“We think that one of Alabama’s greatest resources is its water,” says Bill Shugart, executive director of One World Adventure. “We want to bring light to the fact this is an incredible place and it is worth  preserving, worth protecting.”

Alabama leads the nation in freshwater biodiversity, and Little River is a sanctuary for many rare species (related to this story). The river is an Outstanding National Resource Water, the highest designation a body of water can receive through the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the federal Clean Water Act. This designation was awarded to protect the river from future pollution sources. The Little River Waterkeeper exists, in part, to ensure this status is upheld.

“This river runs its entire life on top of a mountain,” Shugart says. “It’s the only river in the world that does that. People come from all over the world to be here. We want to bring awareness to it and at the same time, we want to be able to control impact to it.”