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.
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.
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.
As a physician, Howie brings an abundance of professional knowledge to the Board as well as a personal passion for wilderness travel. While he was thrilled to spend seven years as a Wabun camper and staff, one of his greatest parental delights has been to watch his son choose to spend nine summers disconnected from technology and connected to nature.
Phoebe Knowles brings 20 years of organizational leadership experience and a lifelong commitment to education and enrichment programming to Red Canoe Foundation Board of Directors. She is an active alumni leader for her alma maters, serving on the Board of the Association of Class Leaders for Brown University and working on alumni engagement for Middlebury’s Language Schools and Graduate Programs. She lived in Spain for 4 years, spent 6 summers of her life canoe tripping in Canada, and has run the New York City Marathon 3 times. She believes deeply in the value of time spent in the wilderness and hopes to send her two daughters (ages 6 and 4) into the woods as soon possible.
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.
Ben lives in Denver, Colorado, and has been a middle school history teacher for the past two decades. 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 started outdoor education programs at the schools where he has taught.
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.
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.
Jason Lewis co-founded Friends of Wabun with Phoebe Knowles and Bill Porter in 2015. Jason spent much of his own 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; this is what drove his desire to create Friends of Wabun and find a way to get more kids on the water and on the trails. Jason is currently the Head of the Upper School at The Fessenden School in Newton, MA, where he lives with his wife and two sons.