A Decade of Learning

All children have an inalienable right to be in nature as a way to orient themselves to their human foundations, based on their connection to nature.


Our first trip will always be memorable due to our enthusiasm to bring young people into Yosemite.  On this trip we found ourselves going up the trail with more than 20 people.

We learned that it was one step at a time.  This set the stage for Sacred Rok – everything has been one step at a time, literally and figuratively, as we have built on these experiences.

Nancy Goodban, Board chair, offers this opening thought:

Why did I want to help create the nonprofit Sacred Rok? Because the first trip was so transformational.

On our first trip in June 2009, we were not a nonprofit or an organization of any kind.  It was just our friend rock climber Ron Kauk, and us helping on a trip with 16 foster youth from Merced County Human Service Agency.   

When they arrived at camp, one of the young women complained about her group tentmates. Her case manager was concerned about her sullen and slightly resentful attitude, but we saw her attitude change 180 degrees by the end of the trip.  At the end of the trip she took a little notebook around to every camper to write a note of thanks to Ron and Katie for leading the trip, and presented it to them in front of the campfire on behalf of the rest of the campers.

When we first arrived, another young man was afraid to wash his dishes by himself after dinner.  But by the end of the trip, he was proudly offering to help Katie wash all the dinner dishes.

Most impactful of all was on the last night during reflections around the fire, no one spoke until one of the staff said, “I wasn’t sure I could make it because I wasn’t in great shape, and I was so proud of myself when I made it.”  His expression of vulnerability opened up for reflection from all the kids.  He is now a member of our Board.


Over the past ten years we have led dozens of trips for hundreds of young people and adults in Yosemite National Park, as well as more recently Pinnacles National Park.  This spring, the Sacred Rok Board held a strategic planning retreat to review our first 10 years and to plan for our future.  We reflected on our most important characteristics that will continue to guide us:

  • Showing respect for youth and adult partners as learners in natural settings

  • Developing relationships in small groups facilitated by Ron and other respectful adults

  • Our youth population is diverse and we are unique, for example, by taking incarcerated youth to national parks.

  • Our story resonates among people who appreciate the sense of awe created by nature.


We say “education nature’s way” because a lifetime of rock climbing at Yosemite communicated  to Ron about the beauty and reality of nature and the nature of ourselves, bringing back the harmony needed to respect the natural laws that govern our survival.  Yosemite is a World Heritage Site that has attracted people internationally to look for a connection to the incredible beauty that is displayed in nature. Our Board member Steve Shackelton is involved with other parks around the world to promote what he calls “Centers for Peace.”   The future will be our children becoming caretakers of our earth.

Ron Kauk

Brian Cooley

Nancy Goodban

Kenji Hakuta

Lamar Henderson

Milbrey McLaughlin

Steve Shackelton

Lucy Snyder

Sacred Rok Board of Directors

We are everlastingly grateful to the agencies that help us provide these experiences – Merced County and San Benito County Probation departments, Merced Boys & Girls Club, Symple Equazion, Uplift Family Services, Merced CASA, Stanford University, and others.

And we are so grateful to all our funders and supporters who share our vision, including the Clif Bar Family Foundation, Patagonia, The North Face, the Gumerlock Foundation, and the Moffatt Family Foundation.