Love for the PA Wilds.

2016 PA Wilds Champions: Thanks for the inspiration!

[heading size=”2″ color=”#000″]2016 PA Wilds Champions: Thanks for the inspiration![/heading]

It is hard to put your heart into building something bigger than yourself, to make the daily risks and sacrifices that go along with doing that, and then have someone in your community put it down, or say it can’t work, or try to discredit you through gossip because they are jealous, or fear change or who knows what.

This happens more than I wish it did in rural PA. Some of the entrepreneurs and other residents I look up to most have told me horror stories. I have a few of my own from launching a regional nonprofit and helping my sister run an outfitting and retail business here.

I’ve heard it called different things in different parts of the region, “the curse of negativity,” or “we’re our own worst enemy,” or “the crab pot syndrome — one crab tries to crawl out and all the other crabs pull it back down in.”

I call it poison, the killer of good ideas and dreams. And each time I see it rear its ugly stinger, I am reminded of how grateful I am for the Pennsylvania Wilds work.

That may sound cheesy or self-serving, but even before I was directly involved with the Wilds I found it an inspiring antidote to the negativity and parochial clicks you can sometimes run into here, something that helped keep me going during those dark uncertain hours that often accompany building new things.

They say money follows good ideas. Well so do good people. And from the start the Wilds effort has attracted a spirited group of doers and dreamers from rural PA and beyond, people from a wide variety of backgrounds and industries and organizations who cared deeply about this place and its future, who were willing to take a chance on a new idea and each other to help rural PA thrive.

It hasn’t been all hearts and rainbows, but pull back the curtain today and the Wilds work has a tremendous amount of strategy, a refreshing lack of ego, and a gritty genuineness that cannot be manufactured. It is filled with the kind of people that as an entrepreneur and writer I want to surround myself with. Look no further than the 2016 PA Wilds Champions Awards, which we celebrate this week, for proof.

This Thursday, in front of a sold out room of 200-plus people, the PA Wilds Team will honor 11 people or organizations for their contributions to sustainable tourism development in the region. This year’s winners include everyone from well-known business men and women to small towns making a comeback to quiet volunteers who have single-handedly run recycling stations or helped beat back invasive species that threaten our region’s great natural assets. They include artists whose passions have helped attract thousands to the region, but who still find time to volunteer to help shape and guide the Wilds effort. A franchisee who instead of building the same old box, went green and tied into the local surroundings and in doing so not only won new customers, but some fans at his national chain as well. People who asked curious questions, challenged conventional wisdom, and decided the change they wanted to see was going to start with them.

Congratulations to all of this year’s winners. And thanks for keeping it real and inspired!


  1. Meredith on April 25, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Beautiful artwork Max and a pretty great message too Ta. Terrific way to start the week!!

  2. Tataboline on April 25, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks Meredith! I talked with Max about helping me with the blog and he was pretty excited this morning about publishing his first illustration. It was a deadline assignment right before the bus showed up lol. He asked if he could do it in marker and I said it needed to be crayon and he said, “well, I guess I’m going to have to work outside my comfort zone Mom” and he got right to it. 8 is such a great age 🙂

  3. Penny Lester on April 25, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Ta! Loved Max’s first artistic publication. Please tell him we want more! Gary and I are sorry to miss the PA Wilds dinner this week, as we loved attending last year. We’ll hopefully get the date on our calendar earlier next year! Have a great evening, Penny

    • Tataboline on April 27, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Penny and will do! And we’ll miss you Thursday!

  4. Stephanie Distler on April 26, 2016 at 8:04 am

    You are always spot on Ta for all it takes is vision, faith and strength of purpose to make things happen. I think we have that down 🙂 See you Thursday!

    • Tataboline on April 27, 2016 at 11:35 am


  5. Coralee Wenzel on April 26, 2016 at 8:30 am

    I loved Max’s artwork as well. Kiddos are so free with their love and happiness <3
    Hope to see you on Thursday.

    • Tataboline on April 27, 2016 at 11:34 am

      Thanks Coralee! Sounds like we will have a strong Warren County contingent at the dinner given Warren’s Great Place award – cool stuff! Safe travels!

  6. Carol C. on April 26, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Hey, Great job – considering Max could successfully handle working in a “foreign medium”… I see a future in the NYC art scene ;). We’ll have to convince him to stay in the PA Wilds.

  7. Tataboline on April 27, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Thanks Carol! I don’t think that will be hard, Max is a nature-lover through and through. Loves to travel to cities and other places like his mom but a country kid at heart so I think in the end he’ll return just as I did (or at least I’m planting that seed!). Raising kids here is certainly a big motivator for me with the Wilds work as it is creating opportunities for the next generation of kids in rural PA.

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