A Bold Life: John Dockendorf

John Dockendorf, owner of Adventure Treks.

John Dockendorf, owner of Adventure Treks.

John Dockendorf thinks every kid should have a chance to go to camp…and he’s backed it up over the years with $160,000 worth of scholarships.

If anybody should know about camps and camp kids, it’s Dock, as he’s known to his friends and colleagues. As a youngster of 12, he attended Camp Mondamin at Lake Summit. In fact, for 15 years, starting in the early ’70s, Dock was either a camper or a counselor at Mondamin. After graduate school, Dock went to work for Globe Treks, a Hendersonville-based tour and travel agency.

“I’ve always wanted to run a camp,” he says, “but when I got out of school I couldn’t afford to buy one.” While at Globe Treks, however, he was able to incubate an idea that puts together the twin attractions of adventure travel and camping.

So now that he’s the owner of Adventure Treks and his 126-acre Camp Pinnacle near Hendersonville, Dock is free to run his enterprise the way he sees fit. And, for Dock, that means making camping and adventure travel attainable for just about everybody. His scholarships are not all hand-outs, though. Applicants must submit an essay along with their applications and often end up ona kind of work-study plan. “We want them to have some ownership of the experience,” he explains. So the scholarships are not strictly “needs” based, but a combination of the camper’s personality and individual circumstances. “Over the years,” he says, “we have invested in some really great kids.”

Dock’s charitable and community involvement don’t end with the camp’s scholarship program. Adventure Treks also provides outdoor education for local grade school kids and donates from 10-30 percent of its annual profits to environmental and children-related charities, as well as United Way.

Adventure Treks takes kids ages 12-18 on camping and hiking adventures in some of the continent’s most beautiful natural places: British Columbia, Colorado, Alaska, Utah, Vermont, New Mexico, and Maine to name a few. So far, Adventure Treks has enrolled kids from 44 states and 14 foreign countries.

While on the adventures or at Camp Pinnacle (ages 8-14), the kids learn self-reliance, teamwork, and critical thinking. In this video-game-free environment, the campers are forced to return to face-to-face communications. What that does is foster a connection with nature. “With a lot of them,” Dock says, ” if they didn’t get a chance to do this kind of thing with us, they wouldn’t get to do it at all.”

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