Walking the Red Road

 photo by Bo Dannefaer

photo by Bo Dannefaer

by Chris Dias

It’s one matter to know the path, to stand upon it, and another to commit to the journey.  Walking the red road equates a belief that one is living a life of respect, humbleness, and truth, a path requiring commitment while also being predetermined.  For some, said road is unclear, little more than a muddy path plagued by bushes. 

Larry Garnot’s believed his road was paved.  A journey governed by righteousness, a calling impossible to ignore.

He also saw someone get stabbed.  

Larry admitted that nugget while discussing his upbringing, a critical fact considering every journey requires a point of origin.  Many readers aware of his name know the destination.  Larry Garnot is the Program Manager of the Cariboo Action Training Society at Camp Trapping.  He achieved that position after many years helping troubled youth, the first of whom was himself, with Larry being an alumna of the very program he currently runs.

And one time he witnessed a guy get stabbed.

It was mentioned so matter-of-fact to stress how thick-skinned Larry is to criminal activity.  He admitted such a tough exterior is not a positive aspect and hopes to ensure others are not as afflicted.  By the time Larry was sixteen, he had dropped out of school, the culmination of a life already beleaguered by petty crime and a dysfunctional upbringing.  He was a confused youth, lacking direction.  Admittedly not a stretch for many of us.  Even after a youth conference where Larry was queried as to why he dropped out, salvation remained out of reach.  The downward spiral continued, resulting in Larry’s period in the criminal justice system.  This wasn’t the end for Larry, neither was it the beginning of the end.  It was the end of the beginning.  

 

He became eligible for Camp Trapping and found himself an occupant on May 1st, 1991 (and yes, that date will be important in exactly 224 words).  Trapping operates as an alternative to jail for Aboriginal males aged 12-18.  In operation since June of 1971 and still to this day, Trapping’s precise location is not public knowledge, leading me to believe those eligible are locked in a burlap bag like characters from Suicide Squad.  Larry was subjected to the traditional battery of challenges at Trapping, testing occupants’ physical, emotional, and spiritual limits.  One such trial is a peak experience, which to employ Wikipedia’s jargon is an “a moment accompanied by a euphoric mental state often achieved by self-actualizing individuals,” though here is taken literally as attendees are tasked with actually climbing a mountain.  Subtlety is not in effect, here.

“Once you climb a mountain, you feel different,” Larry explains.  “You feel capable.  You have conquered something, and once you have, you’ll want to conquer something else.”  

Larry boasts attendees crossing between 400 and 600 kilometers over the course of the program.  

“These kids get lean, healthier.  It provides skills and physical fitness.”  

When finally released from the program, a young Larry Garnot returned to complete his high school diploma.  He worked group homes, for the school district as an aboriginal educator, and kept with his education, eventually pursuing criminology at CNC.  In time, Larry would return to Camp Trapping, this time as a staff member.  It was May 1st, 2000, nine years to the day when he first arrived as a troubled youth (told you that date would be important).  It was a paved road, as Larry saw it.  He didn’t select his career; it selected him.  Not everyone is so blessed.  

“Kids are more complicated, today,” Larry stresses.  “There is always the gang dilemma, but mostly, we’re dealing with mental health and addictions issues.”  

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And it was at this moment Larry mentioned about how he once saw someone get stabbed.  It’s that personal experience that Larry does not shy away from.  He literally wears his emotions on his sleeve (tattoos, the metaphor is apropos).  Larry employs his pragmatism and bluntness as a key, unlocking barriers to reach his most difficult cases.  He doesn’t sugar coat problems or their solutions.  It helps that he can offer his history on the other side of the room as proof of the program’s success.  It helps establish trust, helping Camp Trapping’s low recidivism rate.  In 2012, Larry became Trapping’s Program Coordinator; in 2015, he became its program manager, effectively responsible for every youth that passes through the doors of the bunkhouse.  Beds are not often filled due to low numbers across the province.  Larry doesn’t get discouraged with failure; it makes him more driven.

“The peak challenges are only the beginning.  Structure breeds predictability, and that breeds success.  It’s about the patterns and structure so the kids respond instead of reacting.  It’s important that these kids have some idea what’s about to happen.”

Larry hopes to expand the camp in the future.  In time, Larry would like to operate his own group home to help inner city youths, perhaps the dream retirement hobby.  Larry is drawn to altruism, while the best I can be drawn to is Pasta Tuesday at Boston Pizza.  Larry made me ashamed at my own selfishness.  Camp Trapping works, and its support is vital to the social consciousness that benefits us all, even if most people will never see it, or even be aware of its location.  Those emerging successful from the program gain the opportunity to return that investment.  Three former students that resided at Trapping eventually returned there to pay their reformation forward. For the second time as Larry and I talked, he gently ran his fingers across his arm.  I thought it was him stressing the dramatic tattoos of his spirit animal.  

“Seeing young people succeed gives me tingles,” he replies with a smirk. He has found his path, and I can see Larry walking it for a very long time.
 

Norm Coyne