Impact Giving | Investing in the Future: A Conversation with Lily and Amber Walker

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, a mother and daughter recall how their involvement in The Mountaineers has positively impacted both their lives.
Bri Vanderlinden Bri Vanderlinden
Associate Director of Development
April 01, 2021
Impact Giving | Investing in the Future: A Conversation with Lily and Amber Walker

Sometimes a story asks to be told. As part of my role as Assistant Director of Development, I have the privilege of connecting with members to learn how Mountaineers philanthropy has positively impacted their lives. In last fall’s #GivingTuesday scholarship fundraising effort we introduced 18 year-old scholarship recipient Lily Walker, a five-year member of our year-round teen program, the Tacoma Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC).

For weeks after reading her story, I found myself reflecting on her genuine love for our community and her spark for conservation.

I couldn’t help but think that she’s someone we’d all benefit from knowing a little better. To my delight, Lily was excited to share more about her Mountaineers story - something she quickly credits to the generosity of our donors and volunteers.

A love that spans generations

To better understand Lily’s story, it’s helpful to first learn about her mom, Amber. Long before Lily became involved with the Tacoma MAC program, Amber found her way to The Mountaineers through the Basic Alpine Climbing course. She always enjoyed being outdoors, and at the prompting of a friend, joined our community nine years ago to learn more technical climbing and decision-making skills.

Climbing soon became a family affair. When Lily was just three years old, Amber took her to Edgeworks Gym for her very first rock climbing experience. Amber shared, “Lily could tie into a climbing harness before she could tie her shoes.” She’s been climbing ever since.

Growing up in the Mountaineers Adventure Club

In a twist of fate, Amber met fellow climbing students Sarah Holt (now serving as our Tacoma Mountaineers Program Manager) and future volunteer Kevin DeFields through her course. She had no idea that one day in the not-so-distantfuture, both Sarah and Kevin would be mentoring her daughter in her own outdoor journey.

Under the guidance of skilled staff like Sarah and dedicated volunteers like Kevin, MAC participants meet two to three times a month for skills practice and trip planning. They also get out - a lot! In her time with MAC, Lily has honed her rock climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, snowshoeing, and navigation skills.

In Lily’s words, “I am sure that because of The Mountaineers, my friends and I will continue to hike, climb, backpack, and snowshoe together for the rest of our lives.”

A different kind of higher education

Empowered by the education received through The Mountaineers, Lily and Amber have been able to enjoy many special trips together, including a memorable six-day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. As Lily described, “It was a very challenging trip, because before this experience, everything I had done came easily for me. Kilimanjaro was kind of scary and something I really had to train and work toward. The experience allowed me to face a fear of taking on a really big challenge, which was a big moment in my life.”

While Kilimanjaro was a once in a lifetime trip, the mother-daughter duo has shared many local outdoor adventures together and continues to learn from each other along the way. “One of the things I’ve learned from my mom is the importance of persistence. She will never give up on anything, and she has the ability to inspire and push people to keep on going. It’s something she’s done for me all my life, and I think it was a major reason I was able to do Kilimanjaro.”

For Amber, she’s often inspired by Lily’s drive to tackle big goals. “It’s been really fun to watch Lily grow up through the MAC program. For me, I’ve learned from her as she builds selfconfidence and pushes past barriers that she thought she had, both physically and mentally. I’ve learned so much watching her take on new challenges and be successful.”

When the student becomes the teacher

After five years in MAC, Lily now instructs new students entering the program. Program Manager Sarah Holt shared how she’s witnessed Lily’s transition from student to teacher:

“Lily is one of the ‘original’ MAC kids who’s been with us since our first year. She was an 8th grader then and is now a senior, so I've witnessed her growth throughout her whole high school career. This past summer on a climb of Unicorn, I was proud to see just how far she's come. During Lily's first summer in MAC, she attempted Unicorn but was unable to complete the steep snow approach. This past July, Tacoma MAC climbed the peak again. This time, not only did Lily complete the climb, but she carried the rope, led the 5.6 pitch in mountaineering boots, belayed up all of her peers, and coached all of them through the rappels. Watching her confident display of leadership was truly one of my rewarding moments as an educator in MAC.”

How donors support lifelong learners like Lily

Like so many others within our Mountaineers community, Lily’s story was made possible through the support of donor-funded scholarships. Over the last year, The Mountaineers awarded $62,000 across 282 scholarships to support 23 youth and 99 adults (as many activities require a series of courses, students often receive 2-3 scholarships per year). As one of the many initiatives made possible through philanthropy, scholarships offer more than just an outdoor education. Scholarships foster community, create future volunteers, and serve as an important bridge between recreation and conservation.

In Lily’s own words, “I am so grateful to be a part of this organization. It has been a huge part of my life. I was able to be a part of this adventure club because of the donors who made the scholarship program possible. Since joining, I have grown relationships with people who love the same things I do. People who love to learn and who thrive in nature, just like me.

“The Mountaineers also gives people a reason to spend time outside, which in turn gives them a reason to protect the outdoors. Being a part of MAC has taught me a lot about the importance of conservation. The Mountaineers helps so many people fall in love with outdoor recreation, which ultimately helps protect our wild places. I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say that I am so grateful to have received a scholarship from The Mountaineers.”

After joining The Mountaineers as a spirited 13-year old, Lily had the opportunity to grow and learn in ways that will shape her life in incredible ways. Community, resilience, confidence in the outdoors, and the desire to give back are all gifts that she had the chance to cultivate through our organization. We are proud to have the ability to offer scholarships to young adults like her, and we look forward to seeing the next generation of youth climbing mountains and exploring incredible places thanks to the generosity of our community.

Through the support of our members and donors during #GivingTuesday 2020, we are more than halfway to our scholarship fundraising goal. With the support of our community, The Mountaineers is able to expand access to our outdoor education programs for youth and adults across our seven branches. If you feel inspired to make a difference by helping us meet the remaining $20,000 in scholarship support needed for students like Lily in fiscal year 2021, we hope you’ll reach out to or give us a call at (206) 521-6006.

As a 501(c)3 organization, gifts made to The Mountaineers are 100% tax-deductible. The Mountaineers, Tax ID 27-3009280, is located at 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.

Scholarships in Fiscal Year 2020

  • $62,486 awarded
  • 121 youth & adults supported • 20%-90% of course costs covered for scholarship recipients • 146 donors provided $37,890 in restricted scholarship support • $24,595 of the total $62K awarded contributed through unrestricted donations

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2021 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

LEAD IMAGE OF lily and amber walker on the summit of mt. pugh. PHOTO BY amber walker.