Photo courtesy of Marc Walters/Reel Recovery
Note: “Nature’s Healing Power” airs Thursday, May 30 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 2 at 7 p.m.
Typically a “Behind the Stories” write-up involves an explanation of some of the interesting “goings-on” of a production off-screen, such as its technical feats (and snafus!)
But for this show, “Nature’s Healing Power,” my thoughts could easily be called "Beneath the Stories." You see, many of the participants in the program were seriously ill when we filmed. Indeed, two have passed away. So beneath what you see on the screen are deep emotions, both those of the participants, and of me.
I've tried to show some of that, but 25 minutes can't possibly do justice to the courageous people I met. So it was with a very heavy heart that I had to leave some wonderful individuals out of the program, simply due to time. How I wish they could have been included.
Idaho Reel Recovery Director Dr. Dick Wilson (R) talks with Dr. Mark
Johnson, a volunteer for the group.
Photo courtesy of Marc Walters/Reel Recovery.
The genesis of this program was the calm but determined insistence by Dr. Dick Wilson of Boise that Reel Recovery, a program he brought to Idaho in 2010, was worthy of an Outdoor Idaho piece. The nonprofit, part of a national group, matches men who have cancer with fly fishing buddies for two weekend retreats at a ranch near Mackay, ID.
Reel Recovery participant Marc Foss with his buddy, Mark Stevens.
Dick worked on Executive Producer Bruce Reichert for a while, and then somehow his material made it to me. Perhaps it's because I gravitate towards these kinds of stories. One of my favorite Outdoor Idaho documentaries was a program I produced on Camp Rainbow Gold, a camp for children with cancer.
But I was drawn to Reel Recovery for another reason. It turned out that one of the articles in the packet quoted a friend of mine from 20 years ago who had been a participant in 2010. Ironically, I had just learned that he had passed away. So I read with great interest what he had to say about the program. The therapeutic aspect of it—the bonding with other men who had cancer in “courageous conversations”-- seemed to have given him great solace. That comforted me, because I had learned of his death too late to have been of help.
I met with Dick and asked if we'd be able to film the conversations. He couldn't have been more open about it. We did some advance work to make sure that the men were O.K. with us being there, and upon arrival, they were all welcoming, despite their great challenges.
Reel Recovery participant Paul Franklin with his buddy Dr. Mark Johnson.
To my surprise, I knew someone on the list, Paul Franklin (no relation). His business was the longtime videotape vendor for Idaho Public Television, as well our duplicating house. Paul was gravely ill with a brain tumor when he came to Reel Recovery, and would pass away in February, 2013. But he inspired everyone with his great cheer.
“When I wake up in the morning, I’m asked a question,” he told the men. “Is it going to be a good day or a bad day? And I always answer, “It’s going to be a great day.””
Every man I met in the group affected me in some way. Some of them were in physical pain, and all were struggling emotionally at times. Yet it was one of those rare shoots where everyone was generous of spirit with the camera. I ended up spending even more time with some of the men because I brought along a small camera and did some filming with them in the water as they fished. That was a blast.
Videographer Hank Nystrom gets shots of Reel Recovery participant
Steve Koppen with his fishing buddy, Larry Boyd.
There are three other pieces in the program, each with equally wonderful people. I’ll be talking about them in another essay.
But I wanted to give credit for the inception of the show where credit is due -- to Dr. Dick Wilson -- and extend my deepest thanks to the men of Reel Recovery, who allowed me and videographers Hank Nystrom and John Romlein to spend two days with them as they went beneath the surface to talk about one of the most difficult, and yet revelatory, times of their lives. As the group’s motto goes, “Be Well, Fish On!”
Idaho “Reel Recovery” participants, staff and volunteers, August, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Marc Walters/Reel Recovery.
In a state with an over-abundance of Forest Service and BLM lands, do Idaho's state parks even stand a chance at confronting the challenges coming their way? That's the gist of our story, “The State of Our Parks,” airing in December.
As one of those who has spent many hours on federal public lands, I'm finding out new things about our state parks. For example, Idaho's first state park was named after U.S. Senator Weldon Heyburn, who was pushing for a national park – not a state park – at the southern end of Lake Coeur d' Alene. In fact, he called state parks “always a subject of political embarrassment.”
So Idaho's first state park was named after a man who hated the concept of state parks. But that irony should not diminish the fact that, after more than a century, Heyburn State Park is still one of the best state parks in the northwest.
Once considered the purview of the rich, today you can pretty much find any kind of outdoor recreation at Idaho’s parks – skiing, fishing, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, rock climbing, disc golf. On certain weekends, you can even get a lesson in the firing of Civil War cannons.
We have already begun visiting parks and will continue to do so throughout the spring and summer. Since we only have an hour, we will be zeroing in on a handful of Idaho's parks, like Heyburn, Thousand Springs, Priest Lake, Land of the Yankee Fork, Bruneau Dunes, Eagle Island, Old Mission, and Harriman. It was the Harriman family's special deal with Governor Robert Smylie that led to the creation of the State Parks system.
“To improve the quality of life in Idaho through outdoor recreation and resource stewardship” – that’s the agency mission statement, a mission statement that has evolved over the years, as state parks have become more egalitarian.
Park development in Idaho has always been challenging. The neighboring state of Oregon has more than 150 parks. We have 30. Personally, it's hard to believe that the number of Idaho's parks will increase any time soon, or that a reliance on volunteerism is enough to keep open all of our current parks into the foreseeable future.
But the diversity of Idaho's state parks is really quite remarkable. Each one seems to fill a niche. Each one seems to have a constituency or a community championing it. Each one seems to have a story to tell.