SAM GREGORY, FOUNDER / ORGANIZER / LEADER
As a young boy I always dreamed of having a simple cabin in the wilderness. That dream stayed with me into adulthood. In the mid 70s I travelled west on my bicycle and fell in love with the mountains.
My dream kind of faded when I began the grind of practicing criminal defense. I was handling very serious cases and focused on being among the most respected in New York. In 1996 I was on trial in a double homicide case. The case was before a new judge who had been appointed by governor Pataki. At the end of the case I found the judge and I had become extremely close. It was July in New York and it was hot and muggy. Suddenly out of nowhere the dream of that simple place in the in the wilderness came alive again. I spoke to the judge and mentioned going to Wyoming or Montana. He suggested that Alaska suited my personality better.
I travelled to Wrangell St. Elias National Park, where I had visited once years before. By pure luck I discovered the most beautiful cabin in the most beautiful place in the entire world. I was single at the time. I met a woman who was working for the National Park Service. We fell in love, got married and have three children now. Living and working in Brooklyn, I had always felt bad that the poor city kids never had a chance to go see the world and experience swimming in a lake or hiking on the mountain. I became fixated on trying to help young kids experience some of the same things that I was so lucky to have experienced.
For at least five years I tried to partner with various organizations to start a Brooklyn to Alaska trip, but for various reasons was unable to get it going. My neighbor, an elderly gentleman named Jack Gorelick, was listening to me complain about nobody following through to help me start this program. Jack said "Why don'tyou stop complaining and do it yourself?" So that first year I lined up five kids before I did anything else, because I knew that if I made the promise that I would take them to Alaska on a trip it would force me to do the necessary work to raise the money and start this program. That was in 2008. We had a great trip. Since then, the program has grown and become bigger and better with every succeeding year.