wvAs the snow blanketed Atlanta yesterday my mind raced back to three wonderful days in mid – December I spent in a beautiful spot in the mountains of West Virginia: Canaan Valley. Everyone in the town was gearing up for a busy few weeks of tourism, and amid the hustle and bustle I visited with Angie Shockley and all the gang at Q & A Associates about the wonderful work they do assisting a myriad of transitioning young adults.

Angie and I, along with Audrey Peavey, Directory of Marketing for Q & A Associates and Wisdom Ranch, had an opportunity to meet at The Breakfast Nook at Applewood Inn and enjoy a wonderful meal while we chatted about Applewood Transitions, Cabin Mountain Living and The Journey. Following our conversation Angie took me on a tour of the programs and the town.

Applewood Transitions centers on assisting young adult women find success in their life. Not all women are created equal Angie told me, and she said it’s harder for some who have special challenges to feel important; and, if they do not feel important and useful, they will not achieve the level of success that awaits them. “Through Applewood Transitions these young women are taught about purpose; we help them develop life skills that will serve them the rest of their lives; and, we help them feel important by helping them find employment,” Audrey shared.

The Journey is a transition program for young adult men who learn how to be successful through putting their life skills into practice in the community of Tucker County. With the goal of independent living before them, these young men, with the support of mentors and therapists, are provided challenges and opportunities for personal growth and development. Whether it is climbing a mountain or riding a horse it is through the attaining these successes along the way that transfer with these young men as they learn how to farm or be a linesmen; become an auto mechanic or chef.

Cabin Mountain Living is an independent living center for young men and women on the spectrum who seek to attain a high level of self-reliance based on their abilities and capabilities. “Some of these [men and women] will always need some level of care,” Angie said. “We can teach them to cook, but we cannot always help them to remember to turn off the stove, so having a care giver check on them on a regular basis gives us all peace of mind.”

When I asked Angie why here, why Canaan Valley, she told me that her love for life came from this place. “There is where I like to go fishing, and over there is my deer stand,” as she directed me to look at the places full of memories for her. “It’s no great secret that I struggled as a teenager and young adult, so I know exactly what these guys are going through….” And it is because of her personal journey, Angie knows she can help struggling young adults find their way.

The best part of my visit, hands down, was the sleigh ride. It must be said that a sleigh ride has been on my Bucket List for quite some time and it wasn’t until I suggested to my mom that we take off and go on one for her birthday did I actually make it happen. Snowflakes the size of quarters fell from the time we arrived in Canaan Valley which made for a picture perfect sleigh ride through the town.

Canaan Valley WV 12-2013 089A pair of black Percheron draft horses, with bells on no less, carried us through the countryside on a sleigh fit for the Queen. Words can barely describe the exhilaration and joy we experienced as we rode through snow-covered meadows with the wind whipping the snowflakes right into our faces. Yes, over the river and through the woods; past the Timberline Ski Resort and back to the barn we went.

It was just perfect…an adventure I will always remember. John Denver definitely got it right when he sang: “Almost heaven, West Virginia….”