Few in the outdoor industry today know of Bob Swanson or his major contributions to our industry. He co-founded Sierra Designs, founded Walrus tents, then sold that to REI and followed it up by working for REI for several years before going out on his own as a consultant. Big Agnes was fortunate enough to connect with him, and a long relationship was born. His passion for design centered on tents and tent architecture. He is widely recognized for ushering in the use of hubs into tent architecture and represented the cutting edge of shelter designers. We had the pleasure of working with Bob here at Big Agnes for more than a decade. His business card included the title, ‘The Tent Guy’. And while that was fitting professionally, he meant so much more to us as a friend, role model, sage and pioneer of the outdoor industry. Our grant committee will seek to help those who seem to best embody Bob’s spirit and love of life and adventure.
This grant was created by the owners and staff of Big Agnes in honor of our colleague Bob Swanson who passed away in 2016.
This year, the first annual Bob Swanson Memorial Grant goes to Casey Sheppard, @Casefothenomads. Here is what she had to say on winning:
When I first found out that I won this award, I was in utter shock. Literally. I really never thought I would win. But I applied anyways. When I got the news it came at a pivotal point in my newest epic adventure Tour Aotearoa: 30 day 3000km self supported solo bike tour of New Zealand. I was doing EVERYTHING in my capable means to finance its hefty expenses but was struggling. I was booking speaking engagements, working temp jobs, sold what I could, started a kickstarter, didn’t spend money and saved. I also relied on my family and friends for things here or there. All this on top of training, planning and everything that goes along with this kind of adventure. I was making good progress, getting others excited and on board but I was STRUGGLING!!!!!
Struggle is no stranger. I’ve spent a lot of my life struggling to find my way, but haven’t’ we all??? I felt that I was going through the motions of life and if I just made enough money, met the right guy, keep at a career/job I didn’t like, work more, that maybe happiness would land in my lap pushing struggle out the window. Uhhhh, no. It wasn’t until I took a massive leap and traded my ‘normal’ life I was ‘suppose’ to live for road life did I realize what struggle was all about. And happiness. Now, it took a bit of a transition period or almost detox from my old life to my new purposeful life. I had temper tantrums and total melt downs when I didn’t have enough money for camping or when I had no work coming up or when my cell phone died or my laptop died or when I was sick on the road or missed my family or felt alone or really at any moment during van life. I constantly asked “What are you doing Casey????”
One day, a school reached out asking if I’d visit their students and share my story with them. I agreed, since I got paid, but was scared to share my story, I thought “what’s the point. I’m broke, live in a van and have nothing to offer these kids.” At the first school I was literally shaking in my boots but I took to the stage and spoke. Afterwards I was greeted with a swarm of girls. They told me their hopes, their dreams, their fears and asked advice on how they could find freedom and happiness just like I had. Wait, what? This changed everything.
After I listened to the girls and heard they faced the same struggles I had I found I could comfort, advice and be a support to these girls. I could show them that yes, you may be scared but your not along and it’s worth it.
So why take on this next crazy adventure? To show that anyone, even a hick girl from Nebraska, can do anything they put their mind to. That it is beyond important to believe in the impossible, to dream big (or small) and most of all to follow your amazingly rebel heart!
Once I found out that I won this award, it proved to me that I am making a difference. The grant is a great financial help but the belief of others stays with me through every struggle and success from here on out. Thank you Big Agnes for believing in me and all the other girls who struggle to follow their hearts.
In Bob’s memory, this annual grant will award funds of varying amounts depending on the prospective project needs and its budget. Grants will generally fall between the $500 to $1,000 dollar range. Grants will be awarded once a year and will be announced at the Winter Outdoor Retailer trade show.
Applications for 2018 will be accepted between September 10 – November 26. They must be completed and submitted online no later than 11:59PM MST on November 26. Please note your project might not meet the criteria, so please read all responsibilities and details carefully before submitting an application.