Domestic Violence Survivors Find a Safe Space Outdoors at AMC’s Highland Center

May 29, 2019
domestic violence survivors
Dennis WelshAMC’s Highland Center provides a safe setting for domestic violence survivors and their families to enjoy the outdoors.

The scars of domestic violence are not always visible. One traumatic act can have a lasting effect on a survivor, with the road to recovery requiring time and attention. For families, part of that healing involves regaining a sense of hope—a process AMC is helping nurture by offering survivors and their children a safe place to be outdoors.

For the third year, AMC is partnering with the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Newburyport, Mass., hosting families for summer programs at the Highland Center in New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch. 

“It’s an opportunity for these families to get out of their current environment and routine, and to create a feeling of hope and optimism,” says Kelly Majewski, director of advancement at the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. “The families get a vacation and can give their children something they may not have been able to provide previously, and are not constantly reminded of past experiences of domestic violence.”

The Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center has offered support for adult and child survivors of domestic abuse since 1982, through 24-hour advocacy, legal aid, and programming to promote healthy relationships and to counter social patterns of violence. Through the generosity of donors, the crisis center offers these services at no expense to its clients—as many as 1,400 annually.

“There are different stages people go through when recovering from domestic violence,” Majewski says. “When the opportunity [to have our clients attend programs at AMC lodges] was presented, we wanted to make sure they were going to a safe place and were ready to move forward to do something like this.”

The idea for this partnership came from AMC Boston Chapter and President’s Society members James “Pat” and Margaret Kelly, who also support the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. Since 2017, the Kellys have helped fund this initiative, bringing families up to the White Mountains to enjoy the outdoors.

Sara DeLucia, supervisor of AMC’s adventure programs, works directly with staff at the crisis center to find opportunities that best serve these guests. She says her goal is to provide the most appropriate outdoor experience for each family, choosing programs with hikes, paddles, and other activities that will entertain and challenge kids of all ages. For the younger set, options include short hikes to identify insects and animal tracks, as well as hands-on pond discovery tutorials. Families with older kids and teens often try flatwater paddling or hiking to one of AMC’s high huts.

“Personally, I think it is important to connect outdoors and have people get out of their regular routine,” DeLucia says. “That can be a transformative experience. Some families find that taking kids outdoors is overwhelming, especially if they don’t have enough experience, so the guided aspect of our programs makes it more accessible.”

So far, the response from participants is positive. Majewski says one family compared their hike to something they had only seen in the movies, while another mother said her daughter talks about packing a backpack and moving to the mountains one day. 

“The families are all so thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Majewski says. “AMC’s lodges are gorgeous, and it’s great to have them experience nature and being outside.”

DeLucia sees it as just the beginning. “I hope that all of the participants who come here leave with a sense of empowerment and the goal to come back and have more outdoor experiences,” she says.



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Kelleigh Welch

Kelleigh is managing editor of AMC Outdoors.