Program helps troubled youth explore new paths
by Lee Beach — 10/27/07, Klamath Falls Herald and News
A new program, Tree of Life Christian Wilderness Expeditions, a branch of Wilderness Trails, is helping troubled youth explore new paths for their lives.
Jim Yahne of Klamath Falls and his team conduct weekend to 21-day guided wilderness trips for teenagers. The program was licensed in September 2006 by the Children Services Division Outdoor Youth Program.
"Our primary function is assessment of needs and intervention followed by development of a family service plan so families can continue the program," Yahne said. "We want to challenge and attract kids to reach their potential rather than sending them through correctional facilities."
In 2006, treks were taken to the Klamath River, Opal Creek, Silver Falls State Park and Mount McLoughlin. This year, TLC has taken trips to Waldo Lake Wilderness and Gearhart Mountain, and is preparing for a late November or early December 21-day trek. The exact destination has not been determined, but Diamond Peak, Gearhart or Sky Lakes Wilderness are all possibilities.
TLC is a licensed and bonded, privately funded nondenominational program, the only Christian wilderness program in Oregon. Yahne is a certified alcohol and drug counselor with a master's level addiction counselor degree.
Young people are referred by family, church, school and community resources and sometimes by juvenile authorities. There are costs involved with sending youth on TLC wilderness treks, but in relation to the price of residential treatment, it is less costly. Some scholarship support is provided through private fundraising.
Debbie Vought of Citizens for Safe Schools, sees the program as consistent with the goals of that organization.
"One of our main goals is to support youth programs which address substance abuse and do mentoring," Vought said, "which is key to Tree of Life. The beauty of the program is it is designed for youth, not just with substance abuse issues, but also with school or behavior problems — which can lead to substance abuse or drop-outs."
In a wilderness setting, where youth are in a less stressful environment, Vought sees opportunities for them to be motivated to focus on their future.
Yahne is hoping to expand the program and is looking for Christian leaders. For information, contact Yahne at (541) 281-2956 or
Founder: Expeditions teach youth to function in new ways
Jim Yahne has been where some of the troubled youth he helps through his wilderness programs are now.
He was confined to McLaren School for Boys in Portland in his youth. His life turned around when he connected with a Youth for Christ group.
Yahne has been clean and sober 20 years. Since his recovery, he's worked at treatment centers, for the state Department of Human Services, as a ranger in the Sky Lakes Wilderness and as a wildlife biology assistant.
He started Tree of Life Christian Wilderness Expeditions because he believes the wilderness helps youth coming from challenging circumstances learn to function in a different way.
"We model as a family unit," Yahne said. "How do we talk to each other and walk together. It's a mentoring, modeling program." What his team hopes the youth will learn is that "with one step at a time and with the proper equipment you can accomplish awesome things."
TLC is licensed to take 10 youth on each trek, but Yahne prefers to have eight, with himself and two other guides.
Developing awareness and a capacity to see what results will come from a person's actions are goals of the program.
"When life falls apart, they have to want to change themselves," Yahne said. "Years ago, people wouldn't accept help until they were in their 30s and 40s."