Red Canoe Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization and was founded in 2015 as Friends of Wabun. Each of the founding board members experienced life-changing wilderness travel as teens. Those board members with participating children witnessed the qualities of the wilderness work on them too. Convinced of the profound value of these experiences, they came together to create a fund that would enable more young people access to such programs. A close connection with Camp Wabun remains vital, and the support of that community has been a springboard to our growth which has helped us engage with other essential programs. While the name changed to Red Canoe Foundation in 2019, the core mission of connecting youth with transformative wilderness expeditions is unchanged and enduring.
Phoebe Knowles brings decades of organizational leadership experience and a lifelong commitment to education and enrichment programming to Red Canoe Foundation. She spent six summers canoe tripping in Canada and believes deeply in the value of time spent in the wilderness; Phoebe can’t wait to send her two daughters into the woods! In 2015, she co-founded Friends of Wabun (Red Canoe Foundation’s predecessor) with Jason Lewis and Bill Porter, and served as the Founding Chair and Secretary.
Maddy spent her childhood in New England and chose to return home with her family to live more closely connected to the beauty of Maine’s woods and waters, and life in a smaller village.
Her background in corporate leadership development, professional coaching, and running a wellness business have fostered in her a passion for helping people grow and thrive, in addition to her personal experience as the mother two young people who benefitted enormously from their connection to nature.
Bill first dipped his canoe paddle in Lake Temagami water in 1970. He has been paddling on behalf of wilderness canoe experiences ever since. Bill helped found Friends of Wabun with Jason Lewis and Phoebe Knowles. He spent three years as a Wabun camper and is a proud father of two sons who attended Wabun for a total of eight years. When schedules permit, Bill and his wife Anne spend time in their cabin on the South Arm of Lake Temagami. Other times, Bill and Anne live in Columbus, Ohio where Bill continues to practice law and dream about his next trip North.
I first learned about canoe-tripping camps through an article in our local newspaper. We were looking for something interesting for our oldest son to do over the summer between 5th and 6th grades, aside from the usual sport camps. Fast-forward six years and our kids have spent an accumulated total of 63 weeks (and counting) in the beautiful lands and waterways of Northern Ontario. To say that this type of camp is transformative is an understatement. I have seen the benefits first hand, and I whole heartedly believe in the power of fresh air, sparkling water, and deep camaraderie to bring out the very best in people. The opportunity to bring this experience to a wider and more diverse audience is exhilarating, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Red Canoe Foundation. Aside from counting down the days until paddle-in, I also breed, raise, and train show horses and enjoy quilting.
Hardin L.K. Coleman (aka Hardy). My first summer at Camp Wabun was in 1965 but wilderness canoeing became a part of who I am in 1969 when I had the opportunity to be Peter Spiller’s assistant staff. In eight weeks, Pete taught me more about canoeing, principles of organization, and caring for others than I have learned since. I became an educator so I could keep my summer job which was, at the time, leading Section A which I did seven times along with Tom Woodman, Bill Green, Jon Christo and Pete Gwyn. I look forward to serving on the Red Canoe Foundation Board because of my personal and professional commitment to social equity. I am dedicated to helping the RCF fulfil its mission of providing access to a high-quality wilderness experience for youth.
Chris’ family has deep roots on Garden Island on lake Temagami and in Camp Wabun. His grandfather helped found Camp Wabun in 1933 with seven others. His parents met at Camp Wabun at the age of 12. Chris spent 10 summers as a camper and working at Wabun. He especially enjoyed the privilege of guiding the first three extraordinary Wabun women’s trips to Hudson’s Bay. And is a proud father of two former campers. Chris is a huge believer in the transformative power of immersing oneself in the wilderness, the challenge it presents, and learning to live in harmony with it. Chris brings 35 years experience as an environmental and transactional lawyer. He currently works for a client engaged in farming in Eastern Europe and South America. Chris looks forward to helping to further the mission of the Red Canoe Foundation.
Jason Lewis spent much of his childhood as a camper before leading a dozen 42-day, 1,100-mile wilderness canoe trips for kids in Northern Ontario and Quebec. He believes wholeheartedly in the profound impact that wilderness travel has on the lives of children; in 2015, this belief drove him to co-found the predecessor to Red Canoe Foundation, Friends of Wabun, with Phoebe Knowles and Bill Porter and to serve as the founding Executive Director. Jason is currently the Head of the Upper School at The Fessenden School in Newton, MA, where he lives with his wife, two sons and a black lab.
My connection to Wabun started with a question from Nibby Hinchman one afternoon when he asked if I knew of a young woman who might be interested and available to fill in as a staff person for the second half of the summer. I suggested my daughter Margot who then served as a staff member for the next ten summers. This led to our sending our grandchildren, with our grandson completing two Bay Trips and our granddaughter just completing her third summer. Many trips to Temagami for paddle-in days has made the lake a second home for me and my family. As a former teacher and long-time school person, I have always valued education of any kind, but I have come to truly value the education that life in the wilderness offers young people. Six weeks in the wild is truly life-changing and our mission to offer this opportunity to more young people is inspiring.
Louise is first and foremost a health advocate and outdoor enthusiast. Her work background was in technology and electronic communications supporting independent schools as well as public schools which has given her an appreciation of the need for all of us to “unplug,” to take a break from the fast paced world and pressure that we live in, and get back to nature. She believes that it is vitally important to learn to rely on yourself and your colleagues and to have the opportunity to discover strengths you didn’t know you had. Louise believes that this can happen through outdoor wilderness experiences such as those offered at tripping camps and outdoor classrooms. Her daughter was a trip leader for 10 years and her grandchildren are enthusiastic current and former campers at Camp Wabun. She has seen the transformations in her family and feels profound respect for who they are as a result of this opportunity. Being in a position to offer similar experiences to young people through Red Canoe Foundation is a privilege that she is proud to support.
Ben lives in Denver, Colorado, and is a middle school history teacher. He was a camper at Wabun in the 1980s, and he later returned as a staff in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At Wabun Ben learned how instructive and meaningful wilderness experiences could be for young people, and with that in mind he has been heavily involved with outdoor education programs at the schools where he has taught.
Katie counts herself very fortunate to have experienced the transformative power of wilderness canoe trips as a child and young adult. It is a rare opportunity as a young person to unplug from the digitally connected world and learn the importance not only of self sufficiency, but also teamwork and community. To this day, both personally and professionally, she draws on lessons learned out on canoe trips as a camper and staff. Katie is delighted to serve on the board of the Red Canoe Foundation to bring access to these types of opportunities to a broader audience. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and young kids, where they take advantage of the abundance of river and outdoor opportunities at their doorstep as often as possible.
Jo grew up paddling Temagami’s rocky shorelines, and spent thirteen summers in a Wabun canoe, the last four (2016-2019) as Long Trip head staff. After graduating with a BA in Classics from Amherst College, Jo returned to the forest as a wilderness therapy guide in Vermont, and more recently has spent the past several years as faculty at Kroka Expeditions’ Semester program, teaching fall and winter academic and wilderness expedition semesters. Jo now lives in the lower Hudson Valley with her partner (and border collie, Tess), and she is glad to be continuing her work in changing others’ lives through access to wilderness.
When I think back to my childhood, I realize that many of the dinner conversations circulated around the topic of Wabun. My father, a former Wabun camper, shared stories about his canoe trip adventures, with Hardin Coleman, back in the 70s. Following in my father’s footsteps, I decided to take the leap and venture North to the sandy shore of Garden Island in 2004, at the age of twelve. Throughout the next eleven years I realized how important the wilderness is for adolescent growth and development, especially for women. After leading a handful of bay trips, there was nothing more rewarding than seeing these girls transform into confident and strong young women. I am honored to be apart of the Red Canoe Foundation because the wilderness experience should be safely accessible to everyone.
As a physician, Howie brings an abundance of professional knowledge to the Board as well as a personal passion for wilderness travel. He first was introduced to the “Wabun Way” when he was 14 years old and hasn’t looked back since. After 7 years as a Wabun camper and staff, he changed direction to attend medical school and settled in the pacific northwest as an ophthalmologist and educator. One of his greatest parental delights has been to watch his son choose to spend nine summers disconnected from technology and connected instead to nature. Over the course of the past decade, he has been a consultant to camp and its medical staff. More recently he has been on the boards of the Friends of Wabun and Red Canoe Foundation before accepting his current position.
Tammy is an Anishinaabe Quay who grew up in Temagami on Bear Island and continues to raise her family there. She went to Wabun when she was 12 and that experience made a significant impact on her and wanted her two daughters to experience that as well. They both were campers at Wabun for 6+ years and continue to love it as staff, seeing her children being able to unplug and experience the Temagami wilderness in a canoe for weeks has been so humbling and gratifying. As a board member Tammy brings her love for Temagami and her professional experience of being an IT Specialist for the Canada Revenue Agency, she looks forward to working with the board and to continue being a part of the Wabun Family in the years to come.
Bill’s roots at Wabun reach into many decades – 5 years as a camper in the 1960’s, 7 summers on the staff in the 1970’s (including 4 Bay Trips), a return as Chippy staff in 2007, and then as one of 5 staff on Wabun’s inaugural Family Trip in 2017. Bill practiced commercial real estate law in Seattle for 30 years, and kept his toe in the Wabun waters during many off-seasons by hosting Wabun gatherings (and emcee Dick Lewis) for 15 years starting in the mid-1990’s. He’s delighted to maintain these ties, and to help spread the word about the virtues of wilderness travel, by serving in an advisory capacity to the Red Canoe Foundation.
Gail Coleman brings six years of experience as a classroom teacher and nearly twenty years as a senior administrator in not-for-profit health care organizations. She also brings a belief in the transformative power of time spent in the wilderness based on her own backpacking and canoeing experiences. She feels privileged to merge that passion with her leadership and executive skills to focus on positive youth development and help make it possible for more young people to step out of their comfort zone and into the woods. To reach Gail either email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 608-469-4752
Libby’s experiences canoe tripping as a teenager laid the groundwork for her life. The teamwork, the time for introspection, and the mental and physical strengths she developed became the skills and values she brought to career and family. A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Libby worked professionally in forest ecology and land use policy in Maine. There she and her husband hiked and camped with their three children. But it was letting them go on their own wilderness expeditions and witnessing the profoundly positive effects that propelled Libby to strive to connect more young people with wilderness.