A year after suffering a tragedy, the Kellogg family found some solace in helping Colorado College students enjoy  life-changing outdoor experiences.

In 1993, they started the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, which enables CC students to develop and lead a responsible, unsupervised wilderness expedition in Canada and the United States. It’s a unique college program that empowers students to take the next step in their development both personally and in their outdoor and management skills.

“It would have been very easy to tell CC to buy a bunch of backpacks, but the Kellogg family wanted to do more than that,” says fund co-founder Colby Coombs ’89, who survived the Alaska avalanche that killed Ritt Kellogg ’90, pictured above, left, and friend Tom Walter. “Peter Kellogg wanted to do something that would honor Ritt’s passion for the outdoors and give individual students a chance to do something they had never done before. To CC’s credit, they let us do it.”

The more than 320 grant recipients since 1993 have shown their gratitude with a handwritten letter to the family detailing their experience and how it affected them.

“It’s very common for students coming back to describe it as life changing, which was the intent the Kellogg family had,” board member Dan Crossey ’74 says. “They want to give them the chance for a possible once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The criteria have changed over the years with the expeditions now limited to Canada and the United States — more familiar areas for the board. It doesn’t minimize the effect on students’ lives.

“What they did by creating something out of such a tragedy that brings people together is awesome,” board chair John Thomson ’75 says. “Not only does it provide money for the students to take these life-changing trips, but the way the family honors his legacy is also amazing and inspiring.”

That personal development is why so many alumni give back as advisors. The experience often becomes the basis of lifelong friendships.

“At the close of my freshman year I hopped in a car with three new friends and headed north to the Bridger Teton Wilderness,” Fiona Haslett ’15 says. “None of us had ever headed into the backcountry without expert leaders or someone else who was in charge. Over the course of the trip as we navigated treacherous river crossings, navigational confusion, and food rations, our friendship blossomed and these three girls have become my closest friends to this day.”

The life-changing nature of the experience is evident when the students return, Crossey says. It reminds alumni of their own growth and motivates them to remain involved.

“After being involved with the Ritt Fund for more than 20 years, the passion still burns bright,” Mangat says. “I enjoy seeing the new crop of students each year, learning about their adventures, and seeing how these experiences impact their lives.”