Holidays At RedCliff

Special Ceremonies For Special Days

As a wilderness program for at-risk youth, celebration and ceremony are a big part of life at RedCliff Ascent. Staff members have flexibility in how they make sure that special days are kept special. However, over the more than two decades RedCliff Ascent has been helping troubled youth, RedCliff Ascent has developed a few unique traditions when celebrating the holidays. Many of the holidays involve special ceremonies and meals as part of the celebration. Being away from family during the holiday season is hard for troubled teens and their families. RedCliff Ascent works hard to make sure that holidays are a time of celebration.


When a student has a birthday at RedCliff Ascent, staff and other students try to make the day special. One of the ways we celebrate a birthday is through providing a special treat and empowering the birthday student to share and connect with the group. We send out a treat such as cupcakes or other sharable deserts to the birthday student who shares with the group.

“We always give it to the birthday child with the instructions that they are free to eat it all themselves or they can share it with their group. We have had students eat them all, but they are rare. In most cases, the joy of the event is enhanced by the person being in a position to share with the others something they can’t get for themselves” says Scott Schill, Development Director.

We also encourage the family to use this day to connect with the student. Depending on the circumstances we also ask the family to prepare letters and birthday cards to be delivered on the students birthday. It is hard to be away from your family on a birthday but the uniqueness of a birthday in the wilderness often becomes one of the more memorable birthdays for the family.

Independence Day

Independence day is another holiday we celebrate with our students. Because of our setting, fireworks are not usually an option but we have many other ways to celebrate this holiday. One of the more consistent traditions we have for this holiday is we bring out cold drinks and fruits, such as watermelon or other seasonal treats. We then mix it with some other tradition for example: One year, I ordered flags of the various countries represented in our field, which included [the] USA, Canada, Switzerland, Bermuda, Australia, and Great Britain. I took the students’ photos with their respective flags,” says Scott Schill. “It wasn’t necessarily their Independence day, but they were appreciative nonetheless.


When the air becomes crisp, the leaves turn color, and pumpkin spice flavored things return to the stores, and people start thinking about celebrating Halloween. RedCliff Ascent is no exception.

“We usually send out candy with the staff. We have also done face paints, and we’ve sent out pumpkins and painting kits so they can paint a couple of pumpkins for each group.” In addition, students will get the ingredients to cook the pumpkin for pumpkin pie filling in their pots, complete with whipped topping.


On Thanksgiving Day, groups of students receive whole smoked turkeys. Then staff members warm the turkeys in a dutch oven or some years we have warmed them in a bit oven. Along with the turkey, students enjoy a meal of vegetables, rolls, and yams with all the fixings. To top off the meal, the students will be treated to pumpkin pie! While the dinner is cooking, the students and staff sit in an “attitude of gratitude” group.


Christmas Day at RedCliff Ascent usually begins with a traditional Mountain Man breakfast prepared in dutch ovens.

“It’s a glorious casserole of hash browns, eggs, onions, jalapenos, and bacon bits with a very unhealthy amount of cheese melted over the top. This concoction is spooned into a bowl and then topped with salsa and washed down with milk or orange juice” says Scott Schill.

After students enjoy the Mountain Man breakfast they open gifts from their parents. RedCliff Ascent sends out a list of items parents can buy that are appropriate for the wilderness, such as gloves, scarves, and hats.
Being away from family during the holidays is never easy. However, when teens spend a holiday out in the field, they find a new perspective. Instead of focusing on gifts of electronics, they focus on spending time with peers, enjoying the beauty of nature, or appreciating a good meal beside the campfire.

Contact the staff at RedCliff Ascent to learn more about our wilderness therapy program for teens!