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Empowering youth of veteran families: 2023 scholarship stories

In a world where the resilience and courage of our veterans and their families often go unnoticed, we have helped bridged that gap by offering scholarships to youth from veteran families. In 2023, thanks to funding from the W. Brett Wilson Fund for Military Veterans, we were able to provide young people from military families with life-changing outdoor expeditions that fostered their personal growth, leadership skills and resilience, and helped them understand and embrace the challenges and benefits of their family history. 

Although this was a limited funding opportunity from the W. Brett Wilson Fund for Military Veterans (funding concluded in 2023), the impact made upon these individuals persists. 

Today we want to share the stories of the Georges and the Salways, two families whose fathers served in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and whose children had the unique opportunity to take part in Outward Bound Canada’s expeditions this summer. Here’s what they had to say:

The Georges

Kohen and Jamin George standing side by sideParent: Jamin George, a former Land Communications and information systems technician who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan; retired in 2023.
Youth: Kohen George, 16, participated in the 2-week flatwater canoeing expedition in the Ontario wilderness

The Georges are a family of four children, ages 9, 11, 14 and 16, who live on a hobby farm in a small community north of Kingston, ON. They raise their own vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy. Jamin is currently participating in the Rehabilitation and Vocational Program with Veterans Affairs for injuries he incurred during his career.

Jamin found out about the scholarship through a family friend in the military who suggested it because she knew the family leads an active outdoor lifestyle. He told us about his son’s experience:

What were your expectations for Kohen’s participation in an OBC course, and how did it impact him?

JAMIN: “I was hoping that Kohen survived – just joking! I was hoping that he came back with a smile on his face. That he made social connections, developed leadership skills, and improved his confidence in himself. If anything, I hoped he had a good time. I spent a lot of time outdoors myself as a teenager and it helped me through some difficult situations. I hoped it could do the same for him. 

He definitely came back happy. He’s more confident and more aware of who he is as a person and who he wants to be. He seems less confused and worried about the future. He developed deep connections with the friends he made and he told us it was the experience of his life thus far.”

Can you describe a moment of change in Kohen’s behavior or outlook on life that you attribute to his participation in an OBC course?

“He has developed a newfound confidence in trying new things, approaching new situations with much more confidence and less hesitation. For instance, he recently got his driver’s license. Throughout the past year, he had been nervous about driving and expressed worry. After OBC, he showed little to no worries about driving and has been very confident in his abilities – maybe a little too confident at times. :)”

Are there any particular characteristics you think children of CAF members bring to the OBC course because of their family background?

“They bring with them resiliency. Being a child of a military member can be challenging at times and I believe that because of the challenges military families face, they’re more resilient. They are also more open and accepting of new situations.” 

Why do you think this scholarship was important for the children of CAF members and veterans?

“This scholarship was important to CAF members and veterans because it allows their youth to have opportunities that they may not otherwise be able to have. Being a child of a military family can be turbulent at times, and can bring about uncertainty in life. Allowing these youth to be away from their family, their worries and their daily environment, gives them an opportunity to explore who they are and their potential. It allows them to get closer to themselves and nature. 

This scholarship has given our son an opportunity that would not have otherwise been possible. With four children in our family, these opportunities are not typically available to us. Family vacations are hard to come by and summer camp is not something that happens often for our children. We are grateful for funders who believe that children are worth it!”

And here’s what Kohen had to say about his experience:

Can you tell us what it’s like to have a parent who was a CAF member? How has that impacted your life?

Kohen: “I feel accepted and included in my community and with my friends. I’m proud that my dad has done lots of great things for our country. Life can be more complicated at times due to him having been in the military, but we talk about it as a family and understand.” 

Why did you choose the 2-week flat water canoeing course? How has it influenced your personal development?

“I wanted to learn canoeing skills and experience the outdoors while traveling from campsite to campsite. I wanted a good Canadian outdoor camping experience!

The course taught me more about being a leader and responsibility. I know I can manage a group of people and guide them. I’ve learned how to manage myself under pressure and under time constraints. It’s helped me strive to go outside and connect with nature more and be by myself.”

Can you share a personal story or experience from your OBC course that had a particular impact on you?

“The solo experience had the most impact on me because it helped me connect with myself. I had to write in journals which helped me be aware of my mental state. It gave me confidence to know I could do things on my own and get through something scary and hard. 

I also had some funny experiences with thunderstorms and the sounds that thunder makes – the clapper, the boomer, the squeaker and the thumper.” 

Why do you think it is important that the youth of CAF members and veterans have the opportunity to participate in OBC courses through this scholarship?

“This scholarship gives kids who may not have the chance to do these cool things a chance. Kids from military lives can have harder lives than other kids and they need a break, so this gives them a chance to get a break from military life and all the stuff that comes with that.”

Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for other young people from CAF families who are considering taking an OBC course?

“Do it! It’s great experience. Go outside of your comfort and try something new. You’ll meet new friends your age and the instructors are amazing too. 

It’s a life changing experience and you won’t regret it. I went to the course nervous and unsure. I was scared it would be too hard and I didn’t know what to expect, but it  was the best experience of my life and I didn’t regret going for one second. Thank you to the [Brett Wilson Foundation] for helping me – I am so happy you did!”

The Salways

Brutus and Jody SalwayParent: Jody Salway, who served in the military for more than eight years, including a seven-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2006; retired in 2012
Youth: Brutus Salway, 15, participated in the 2-week sea kayaking expedition on the West Coast

Jody, an OBC alumnus himself, encouraged Brutus to take a similar course so that they too could benefit from a transformative experience:

Can you tell us more about the OBC course you took and how it impacted you?

Jody: “In 2017, I stumbled upon a unique OBC opportunity—an eight-day kayaking trip in the Bay of Fundy, designed especially for veterans. It was a chance I couldn’t pass up. The course revitalized my kayaking skills and allowed me to tackle some of the planet’s highest tides. More significantly, it served as a sanctuary for my mind, where each paddle stroke in the crystal-clear waters was an exercise in mindfulness, leading to tranquility and a deeper connection with nature.

Encouraged by my transformative experience, I advocated for Brutus to take a similar course, a 2-week kayak trip on the West Coast, convinced of its potential to offer more than outdoor skills—it’s a pathway to personal growth that’s hard to replicate. The course illuminated my understanding of personal limits and the power of being truly present, which are lessons I want to pass on.” 

How did your own experience with Outward Bound Canada influence your decision to encourage your child to attend a course?

“I envisioned that by embracing this adventure, Brutus would not only pick up a new pastime, but also cultivate resilience, and an appreciation for nature’s brilliance. My hope was for them to find the same joy and calm I did, and to grasp the balance achievable when one is acclimated to the natural environment. 

The clarity of mind and sense of achievement this adventure fosters are priceless. I believed such experience would lay the foundation for a life that fully embraces the world’s natural value, well beyond our digital confines.”

This is what Brutus had to say about their OBC experience:

Can you tell us what it’s like to have a parent who was a CAF member? How has that impacted your life?

Brutus: “I was younger then so I don’t remember a lot about when dad was gone, but I do find it interesting when he talks about how work used to go and what it was like being in the CAF. He talks a lot about the people he was with and the places he has been.” 

Why did you choose the 2-week West Coast course, and how has it impacted you? 

“I was born in BC  and my parents thought that being by the sea might bring back memories of when we used to go seal watching and turning over rocks and watching the mini crabs scatter.  

I’m still not much of a leader, but I do now have the confidence of being first to go up to the buffet! This experience has turned me into a chatterbox when people mention “Outward Bound”, because I have so much to say about the people I met and the wildlife that I saw.”

Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for other young people from CAF families who are considering taking an OBC course?

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience and you will meet a lot of new people. Being out there will clear your mind and you’ll be able to see the beauty of nature. Also, if a parent has PTSD, it’s nice to get out and get away doing something positive and different from what you would normally do.”


 We thank these great families for their service to our country. We’re honoured that you participated in our courses, and shared your experiences with us. 

If you are a current or former CAF member or the child of a CAF member, we have some funds available for scholarships for youth from veteran families – but it’s ending, so apply soon! 

If you’d like to help us empower more youth in Canada, please consider donating to Outward Bound Canada today.

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