Fighting a 'losing'
battle against youth obesity
Tsinnijinnie, left, Nickohlas Thompson, center, and Tom Riggenbach
get ready to begin their second day of hiking to Rainbow Bridge
National Monument last Wednesday. Navajo Times | Ravonelle
Navajo Mountain, UT - It's late on Day One, and the youngest
member of our group is hurting.
"How many more miles?" asks 13-year-old Molique Miller for the
third time as he plops down in the shade of a stunted juniper, dwarfed
by his borrowed backpack, and chugs some lukewarm, iodine-scented
water from a plastic bottle.
"Are you sorry you came on this trip?" the reporter asks him.
"Kind of," he admits.
After the two-day, 14-mile backpack trip to Rainbow Bridge,
we encounter Miller slumped on a bench on the tour boat back to
Page, Ariz. He has downed some ice-cold lemonade, nibbled on fresh
fruit, and the oppressor backpack lies on a helpless pile with the
others below deck.
"Was it worth it?" the reporter asks.
Too tired to reply, the Navajo boy nods his head yes. Navajo
YES (Youth Empowerment Services) is also the name of the non-profit
that has brought us together in this magnificently tortured desert:
seven teenage boys, a plucky young photographer, an aging and out-of-shape
journalist and the group's founder and executive director, Tom Riggenbach.
The stated purpose of this trip is to flag the trail from Navajo
Mountain to Rainbow Bridge for a proposed marathon, part of YES's
Navajo Parks Race Series. But the truth is, Riggenbach and his two
stalwart minions, Bob DeJolie and Myron Bryant, could have done
that in less than a day by themselves. The real purpose is the mission
of Navajo YES and Riggenbach's whole adult life: to get more Navajo
kids into their astonishing backyard.