I'm saddened to share that one week ago today we had to put one of our GTD Dogz (Faith) to sleep. Faith has blessed our lives and so many of our participants for nearly 15 years. She & her sister Courage "joined" GTD when they were 6 weeks old - a day after a bear came into one of our campsites and I decided to get a dog to be our "wild animal alarm". Faith & Courage instantly became part of my family & the GTD family and traveled with us on adventures throughout the southeast from the swamp trails of the Everglades, to the canoeing trails of central Florida, to the rock climbing mountains of Tennessee, to the waterfalls & gorges of North Carolina, and to the backpacking trails & State Parks of north Georgia. Faith loved going on all of these great adventures and both dogs did an outstanding job fulfilling their role as alarms for & deterrents of wild animals entering camp, alerts of strangers walking nearby, and most importantly they served as a fun-loving face-licking affection-giving representative for our ministry. In many ways they were as much of a GTD staff member as any employee or volunteer. Everyone loved Faith as soon as they met her, especially kids! No matter how God-awesome an event was this Labradoodle could always make it even better just by being the lovable & silly dog she was. I never used to understand how people could get so attached to pets until I got these dogs. Second only to God Himself, these dogs have taught me more about unconditional love, the power of asking and receiving (they were always asking for snacks, truck rides, belly rubs, & to go outside), unstoppable joy, not holding a grudge when others (me) let them down, and the importance of stopping office work & going outside for some fresh air. Faith was a much better dog than I was a owner, but she was always so happy when I walked through the door and would run over and start pouring out the love. And as much as she loved me she adored Laurie. They say that you don't pick your dog, your dog picks you. Courage picked me as her best friend, but Faith picked Laurie as her bestie. As happy as Faith was to see me she was a thousand times more thrilled to see Laurie. Laurie is a much better pet owner than me. I call her, "Laurie Finger - Friend Of The Animals". Faith would come alive and sprint to Laurie as soon as she saw her... it was like everyday was Christmas and Laurie was Santa Claus! With all that was going on with my parents over the past few years I never posted this on social media, but Faith has been aging very poorly over the past few years. She went completely deaf, had terrible arthritis in her hind legs that made walking difficult & caused her to fall many times throughout the day, and for about 18 months she has had dementia which caused her to walk aimlessly & stand facing the corner in any room. Even with all of that she was almost always happy. But there were also times when she would fall and be unable to get back up on her own and begin to panic. I was hoping she would make it to the end of the year, but last Thursday she took a sudden turn for the worse and lost all sense of balance. She couldn't sit, stand, or walk without falling and hitting her head. Her eyes were twitching uncontrollably. We believe she developed Nystagmus. I didn't want to put her down, but over the next 24 hours it became obvious that was the only option. We called Laps of Love who come out to your house. Laurie came over and slept next to Faith all night on Thursday night and then we had Faith outside (her favorite place) all day Friday feeding her rotisserie chicken & cheese. Faith's final act of affection was to nuzzle up into Laurie's lap just before the meds were administered. It was so touching and crushing at the same time. Faith passed painlessly while laying securely in her best friend's lap. She was a fantastic dog and lived a great dog life, and she served our ministry well for nearly 15 years! Thank You God for making animals... what a cool invention!! A few years ago there were 4 cats and 2 dogs living with me. Now it's just 1 dog. The house feels a whole lot emptier without all these fun-loving furry friends... but that's the hard & unfortunate part of having pets... they just don't live as long as you wish they did. Goodbye Faith! Thank you for your service and all the doggone good times!! And thank you to the thousands of people who loved on Faith over the past 14+ years on events and to the long list of people who dog-sat for her & Courage during trips and events that they weren't able to travel to (like Costa Rica, the Grand Canyon, etc). Check out all of the great pictures of Faith (and Courage)... from 6 weeks old to her last day... with thick hair, closely shaved hair and everything in-between :) . Faith was one-of-a-kind with so many quirky & hilarious behaviors... the house and our hearts are emptier without you Faith! That just shows what a great dog you were!!
Friday, March 31, 2023
Monday, March 20, 2023
Thank you to everyone who has prayed for and checked up on our Dad! We are happy to report that he is doing really good. His cellulitis is gone, swelling is gone, redness is gone, and pain to the touch is gone. His knee replacement surgery was a success and he is receiving physical therapy. He is walking with a walker and making small gains of progress everyday! This guy is The Comeback Kid! PTL!!
He has been at The Vescovi Resort & Spa (aka, my Sister's house) for the past month. Traci, Dave, & Carson have been doing a fantastic job of caring for him while we continue to move forward with preparing a nice place for him at my house. He really looks forward to being more independent and a lot more mobile! This guy never gives up! Way to go Dad!
Sunday, March 19, 2023
We are beyond thrilled and overwhelmed with gratitude for a local grant we received during our annual fundraising season for $10,000 to go towards replacing our aging trailers!! Since we are a mobile ministry trailers are one of our top 3 most important pieces of equipment. Without a trailer we couldn't run most of our events. All of our trailers are 20+ years old and have served us incredibly well. But they are aging and we need to replace them as we gear up for our next 20 years of ministry, and work on our expansion strategy. Well say hello to our newest addition!! This is GTD's "new" 2019 barely used trailer that spent most of its life parked at a house and utilized as a storage container. It's a heavy duty enclosed car hauler and it's in mint condition including new tires! It's 6 ft longer than out current trailer so we can hold a lot more "fun stuff"!! And it's 7 ft tall so Carson & I won't hit our heads anymore haha! Wowww, we are soooooo happy to have received this generous gift!! This is such a big deal for our ministry! I estimate that this trailer will be used to provide God-awesome adventures to over 20,000 people in the years ahead... now that's an impactful use of just a portion of a $10,000 grant! Aaaaaaaaand we still have remaining funds from this grant to go towards more trailers!! Our kayak trailer is rusted out so that's next on the list... especially since we have "new" 2-year old tandem kayaks that were just donated to GTD (from Cocoa Kayaking) in January that are worthy of a new ride :) . It's with hearts overflowing with gratefulness that we say THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH to our local grantor!!!! You just made this ministry stronger, better, and more capable to impact young people's lives (and all ages, but especially the youth) for many many years ahead!!! God bless you!!!!!
Saturday, March 18, 2023
MEGA THANKS to Tabernacle of Tampa Bay and the Zeitler family for setting aside last Saturday for a volunteer work day & service project day at GTD Central Command (aka my house) including my Dad's renovation project!! They shoveled tons of leaves... moved, stacked, & stored building materials... removed old windows... washed & cleaned backpacking gear... helped us clean up from the last project... and thoroughly blessed me & GTD immensely!! I want to thank Pastor Dan for making outreach and serving others an emphasis of his church and for the wonderful fellowship we were able to enjoy on top of all the productive work. Carson & I spent the next 4 days building upon the work this wonderful group accomplished. Thank you TTB for blessing GTD, my Dad, and my life! You guys rock!! God bless you!
Friday, March 17, 2023
Happy "92nd" Birthday to my Mom in Heaven! I could write a 2000 page novel about how much I love my Mom and praise God for all she did for us throughout my entire life. At least one of those chapters would be about the spiritual influence she had on my life, and how that influence lead me to Jesus (the best "thing" that ever happened to me). As I reflect today on this amazing woman and celebrate her life I wanted to share one of the most important pictures from my life of my Mom and I going to church together when I was a dashing 12 year old heartthrob... this was a regular thing we did together since I was a kid all the way up to her final years... this is probably the single best thing any parent could do for their child. Mom put me in position to learn about God and to fall in love with Jesus... it also introduced me to some of the best and most loving people on this planet... and lead to the most amazing friendships I could ever experience in life... and ultimately lead me to my life's calling. Wow, what an immeasurable impact my Mom made in my life simply by taking me to church and Sunday school every week and living the truth in front of me. I'm forever indebted to my Mom for her selfless love and for "keeping The Main Thing the main thing" as my former pastor used to say. Mom, I miss you, I love you, and I selfishly wish you were here today. BUT, I know that would mean you would be here suffering and continually declining AND more importantly you wouldn't be fully healed and joyfully celebrating in the presence of your Savior. I have great comfort in the fact that you are whole now, overflowing with joy - peace - and love, and that you're enjoying ice cream that doesn't melt (as my friend says). Thank you for leaving a legacy in my life! I love you more ;)
Today I'm spending the day going to places and restaurants that I often went with my Mom as I celebrate her life :)
Thank you to all of our family & friends for your amazing support over the past few months. We are in the process of writing many thank you notes, but please know that your support means more to us than we could ever express. As Mom would say, "Love you more!"
Thursday, March 16, 2023
Huge thanks to some awesome dudes & a dudette that launched some major home improvement projects for my Dad a few weeks ago!! Dad is permanently moving in with me and there's lots to get done to create a nice space for him. My overwhelming deepest heartfelt thanks to my fantastic cousin- Dennis, one of my all time best friends- Bryan, his INCREDIBLE 85 year old Dad who we couldn't keep up with- Ron, my fantastic nephew- Carson, and his amazing girlfriend- Lauren for setting aside 4 days to work nonstop at kicking off some big transformational renovations to bless Dad! It will probably take till the end of this year to complete the projects, but this crew launched the momentum, and that's no small thing!! Special thanks to Dennis & Bryan for travelling out-of-state and taking time off from work to make this happen!! You guys are phenomenal men with huge servant hearts! God bless you guys!! We also were deeply touched by others who reached out to want to help fund some of the projects... talk about causing our hearts to overflow with love & joy!! Thank you soooooo much!!! We have continued the projects since Dennis & Bryan returned home and we are making good progress. We will be working on the renovations every week (usually Tues - Sat when I'm not running GTD events) if anyone wants to help. In addition, we are also working on several GTD projects as well as my own personal home improvements along the way. I'm years behind on everything so having some help to jumpstart some major projects and get the ball rolling is bigger to me than I could ever articulate!! I'm beyond grateful!! Thank you guys & gal... and Thank You Jesus!
Monday, March 13, 2023
Last weekend's annual IGNITE Camping Retreat was a blast! We had about 40 people that joined us for some great praise songs around the campfire (huge thanks to Mark Routman!) as well as lots of fun at the climbing tower, zipline, basketball courts, water slide, swimming pool, hot tub, hammock area, outdoor movie night, & fun times around camp! With only 3 weeks to plan it & promote it this year's IGNITE turned out really good! PTL!! Check out the pictures from this event at the following link:
GTD's next Public Event is our FREE Annual Day-Before-Easter LIQUID Kayaking Day Trip on April 8th (a Saturday) in St Petersburg, Florida. It includes a FREE lunch, and we will be using our NEWLY DONATED (from Cocoa Kayaking)TANDEM KAYAKS!!! (See website for details and to register):
Aaaaaaaaaand IGNITE 2024 is already scheduled for next year: April 19-21, 2024! Our venue is already booked, website built, and registrations are already open!! This is a perfect opportunity to go ahead and book your rooms and suites if you are going to opt for hotel style rooms instead of tent camping or bunkhouses! For more details and to register for this event at the current price click on the following website:
Thank you to all of our supporters, donors, prayer warriors, volunteers, and encouragers that help make these events possible for free or at an incredible price!! We have survived so much over the past 5 years and we have so much more ministry ahead of us! Thank You Jesus!!
Going The Distance Adventure Ministry
Celebrating 27 years of God-awesome fun!
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
Dad is headed to the ER for a possible blood clot in the same leg he just had his knee replacement surgery. Please keep him in your prayers!
UPDATE: No blood clot PTL, but being admitted to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater for possible infection. HUGE thanks to Carson & Lauren for all their help today!!