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Schools, Programs, & Visit Reports - Nov, 1989 Issue 

Wilderness Conquest
(Now Known As Wilderness Quest)
Operated by: Larry & Karen Wells
Visit report by Lon Woodbury

"Thank you for sending me here Grandma. I now know I'm capable of doing a lot of things I thought I couldn't do."

"She's opened up more than ever before," Grandma responded to the group of parents and students. "We see a fantastic improvement."

This exchange took place on top of a houseboat moored on a deserted beach of Lake Powell in Southern Utah. It was perhaps the most emotional moment during the October 15th graduation exercises conducted by Larry Well's Wilderness Conquest.

The 17 year old girl had come to Wilderness Conquest acting like she was retarded and incompetent. Her main pattern was a refusal to try. Her life had been a string of losses (including her mother dying), abuse, foster homes, and misunderstandings with her overwhelmed grandparents who never gave up trying to help her. Psychiatrists, hospitals, and counseling were an on-going part of her story, none of which had been able to help her.

She had made a major break through in about the fourth week on the trail. She had started turning her feelings and attitudes around. When I saw her at the end of the sixth week, she was progressing so rapidly I could actually see her facial features change and lighten day by day.

I had been invited by Larry and Karen Wells to advise Wilderness Conquest on their Admissions procedures. I not only wound up helping with a transport, but sat through the last four days of their program, called Family, and observed them working at bringing families back into communication with each other.

As near as I can tell, Larry Wells is the first person to establish a therapy business for seriously non-functioning youths using primitive living skills as a major tool. He started doing this in 1971. He is a quiet, unassuming man who finds it difficult to blow his own horn. On the trail, however, working with students, a transformation takes place. Then, I saw there is no question in anybody's mind that Larry is in charge, and everything is going to be done exactly right.

He was featured on Paul Harvey's "The Rest of the Story" in 1985. In past years he was called on by S.U.W.S. and Wilderness Challenger when they needed the best man they could find to help them get started.

Wilderness Conquest is a 42 day program using primitive living skills, group and individual counseling, and positive peer pressure to help young people break down old habits of failure. They help students learn success habits such as trust, honesty, and responsibility while earning High School credit. In the last four days of each trip, parents join their children and in a safe environment, without distractions, are helped to learn techniques to communicate honestly and fully with each other. Licensed family therapists work regularly with the program, and usually conduct the family sessions. Wilderness Conquest seems especially strong in helping families learn to communicate well enough for the child to return home. However, Larry and Karen are willing to work with parents and referring professionals to set up a child for a long term special purpose school when that seems to be best for the child.

If you have any questions, give me a call.

Copyright 1989, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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