Written by Jenni Chaffin
Photo Credit (top): Etai Bruhis
Guiding people in the outdoors - getting paid to run rivers, find elk, and ski big lines - is to many, at least from the outside, the ultimate profession. If you’ve never guided an outdoor trip, you might imagine that guides spend their days enjoying epic vistas, backcountry sunsets, and endless campfire stories. To some degree, this is accurate. But as with any profession, guiding is hard work and comes with its own challenges, most never seen by clients snapping selfies at the put-in or admiring the big brown on the end of their line. Guides, especially those who work in the remote backcountry, often work for weeks or months at a time in a variety of roles, including customer service, safety, and entertainment. At the same time, guides are also first responders, camp hosts, chefs, porters, storytellers, mentors, and much more. The seasonal fluctuation that inherently comes with guiding in the outdoors can be tough on relationships, financial stability, and, most importantly, mental health.
Photo Credit: Skip Volpert
Enter The Redside Foundation. The Redside Foundation was founded in Idaho in 2011 to support the health and strength of professional outdoor guiding communities. The vision of the foundation is simple: provide resources to support the health of seasonal outdoor guides and lift up guiding as a premier profession. Healthy guides deliver positive client experiences, which further translates into a vibrant outdoor recreation economy and a need to protect the wild places which make it all possible. The Redside Foundation approaches their mission by providing guides with educational opportunities, training, and support services including confidential access to mental healthcare and substance use disorder counseling for those in need.
Photo Credit: Greg Cairns
"The Redside Foundation was founded in Idaho in 2011 to support the health and strength of professional outdoor guiding communities."
Since 2011, The Redside Foundation has:
- Provided over 100 grants to guides to support their professional development, including defraying the cost of attendance at professional trainings such as wilderness medicine and swiftwater rescue courses.
- Awarded over $20,000 in educational scholarships to guides attending colleges, universities, and trade or professional schools.
- Maintained a Guide Helpline which helps guides access financially-supported, confidential mental health services.
- Connected guides with financial planning assistance to strengthen the longevity of many guiding careers.
- Operated annual health fairs which provide guides with a menu of health services including physical health screenings, confidential access to healthcare professionals, and a range of information to support personal and professional health and wellbeing.
Photo Credit: Seth Dahl
Has this always been a need? Maybe, but it was difficult to see. In June of 2010, the Idaho guiding community was shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic loss to suicide of longtime Idaho guide Telly Evans. Telly was a dedicated Middle Fork of the Salmon River guide, a legendary interpreter of the wilderness, and a compassionate friend to all. His jovial laugh could be heard echoing down river canyons, around campfires, and from peak to peak across Idaho’s backcountry. Sadly, behind his generous smile, Telly hid a pain that would eventually steal him from the river and the friends he loved. The Redside Foundation was founded in part to foster his spirit in others, and to build a culture in the guiding community that might prevent a similar loss in the future.
The Redside Foundation was inspired by Telly’s love of life, but also by the work of the Whale Foundation, an organization founded to support the Grand Canyon river guiding community in and around Flagstaff, Arizona. The Whale Foundation was founded following the loss of Curtis “Whale” Hansen, a longtime Colorado River guide and native of Hazelton, Idaho. The legends of Whale and the stories of Telly are remarkably similar – the sudden, tragic loss of a valued friend and community member without sign or warning. Today, both organizations continue to work tirelessly to provide opportunities for education, wellness, and support of outdoor guiding communities.
Photo Credit: Tanner Haskins
Chums is happy to partner with NRS to support the work of The Redside Foundation. Today, The Redside Foundation offers services to guides in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and is building capacity to serve guiding communities across the western United States and beyond. With each purchase of our limited edition retainers, wallets, shirts and hats, Chums and NRS will donate proceeds to support the ongoing and important work of The Redside Foundation. Learn more at www.redsidefoundation.org.