Category Archives: Make a Difference

Help Save Springerville’s Historic El Rio Theatre

Springerville's El Rio Theatre (then called the Apache Theatre)

Springerville’s El Rio Theatre (then called the Apache Theatre) | Courtesy of Laura Preder

Springerville’s El Rio Theatre (formerly the Apache Theatre) opened in 1915, so its 100th birthday would be next year. But it might not make it that far without a little help.

Considered Arizona’s oldest active movie house, the El Rio needs to update to digital projection now that 35 mm film is going out of style. Supporters of the theater are trying to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter to make that update a reality and keep the single-screen, 288-seat theater in business. From the Kickstarter page:

Locally, no one wants the El Rio Theatre to close its doors in this tiny rural community where the next movie theater is over 50 miles away by two-lane road.The bottom line, however, is that without movie distribution, the El Rio Theatre is a theater in name only. Round Valley residents have overwhelmingly expressed support and pitched in where possible to help save the El Rio Theater but our efforts have fallen short. Based on the approximately $100,000 needed to upgrade the projection and sound systems combined with some basic interior remodeling and electrical improvements needed to accommodate the equipment, we find ourselves with a shortfall of about $50,000 that we are looking to raise through the generous contributions of patrons of the fine arts like you.This is your one opportunity to help preserve one of the truly historic Arizona movie houses and to ensure that it reaches its 100th birthday and celebrates its centennial anniversary next year.

If you’re a fan of historic movie theaters, or if you’d just like to see Springerville and Eagar keep their only movie house, please consider contributing to the restoration effort. The Kickstarter campaign continues through August 13.

1 Comment

Filed under Et Cetera, Make a Difference, News

Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Fire Photo Submissions Wanted for Juried Exhibit

Garland's Oak Creek Lodge

Photo courtesy of Mary Garland

The Sedona Arts Center is joining forces with the two Rotary Clubs of Sedona to host a juried photo exhibit called The Slide Fire Story: A Tribute to Oak Creek Canyon. Submissions are being sought, and anyone can participate. Photographs can be from Oak Creek before or after the fire, or of the fire itself. Video submissions are welcome, too. The deadline is Friday, June 20.

Images should be sent as jpegs and should not exceed 5 megabytes. Send them to

Below, David Simmer, professional photographer in Sedona and president of both the Sedona Arts Center and one of the participating rotary clubs, talks about the upcoming show, which opens July 10.

How did this exhibit come to be?
During the fire, the smoke that settled into Sedona was a constant reminder of the battle that was going on to contain the blaze and preserve Oak Creek Canyon. I’m a professional photographer, and I happen to be the incoming president of one of the local rotary clubs. I am also the president of the Sedona Arts Center. So, all of these pieces started fitting together for me. Rotarians are experienced to fundraise for local causes. And the arts center is always looking for opportunities to exhibit relevant art, and few places have more photographers than Sedona. The pieces all seemed to come together to have the local rotary clubs put together an exhibit of photography to be shown on the edge of the canyon at the arts center. I ended up floating the idea by a couple of trusted friends, and it just took off from there.

Can anyone contribute photos? What are you looking for in terms of submissions?
Yes, we welcome photos from anyone who has an image that relates to the impact of the fire. It could be an image showing residents of the canyon who were displaced from their homes, or animals that were likewise forced to flee, or a firefighter on break, or images that show the outpouring of appreciation of locals for the work of the firefighters to minimize the damage. We are looking for any images that reflect the impact of the fire. Amateur or professional, we don’t care. Actually, in this day and age, some of the best images are taken on cellphones because of the immediacy of the photograph. The images should be sent to That will allow us to easily communicate with the photographers and let them know what is going on. I should mention that we will be doing all the printing for the exhibit and will not be selling the images. We are only going to exhibit them, and we will be acknowledging the photographers whose images are selected.

Why are videos part of the project?
As we were working with our art director, Lynette Jennings, for the exhibit, she mentioned that she has seen some video of the plume of smoke rising over the canyon, and it made her wonder what other video might be out there. And when you think about it, we live in a world in which people commonly carry not only a camera, but also a video camera on them at all times in their smartphones. Lynette suggested that we ask not only for still images, but also for video. Who knows what people might have — that could be compelling footage of the early stages of the fire, or of the evacuation, or of locals bringing supplies to support the firefighters. That might really bring home the story of the fire and its impact.

What do you and your colleagues hope to accomplish with the exhibit?
There are a lot of intangible benefits from this event. We think it will be an opportunity for our community to come together to focus on what an important part of Sedona that Oak Creek Canyon is. We think it will also help us all to focus on the risk of fire and the need to be diligent and responsible when it comes to our actions and those of others. Beyond raising awareness, we would like to raise funds that will be used to mitigate the impact and that will help train firefighters who will be working across our state on these disasters. We will be splitting the proceeds from the event between the Slide Fire Disaster Response Fund of the Arizona Community Foundation and the Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy, where all the firefighters train for these types of fires.

What has the mood been like in Sedona after the fire?
From my conversations, there is, of course, a general mood of relief and incredible appreciation that the Slide Fire has been extinguished. But there is also an undercurrent that this isn’t the last of it. This is a reminder that we are still at high risk for fires because of the drought. And there are concerns about what the fire might mean for potential flooding during the monsoon season.


Filed under Make a Difference, Photography

ADOT’s ‘One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire’ Campaign

A very important message from our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation. We hope you’ll share this message on social media so we can spread the word and minimize wildfires this season.


Filed under Eco Issues, Make a Difference

Q&A: Sirena Dufault Nears End of 817-Mile Arizona Trail Hike

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Sirena Dufault at the Mazatzal Wilderness | Courtesy of Sirena Dufault

Back in March, we told you about Sirena Dufault, who’s hiking the entire 817-mile Arizona Trail to raise awareness and funding for the Arizona Trail Association, where she is a volunteer. Dufault is nearing the end of her hike now, and we recently caught up with her via email to see how the trek was going. To see Dufault’s updates on her progress, check out her blog, and to contribute to the ATA, visit this link.


What have been the highlights of your trek so far?
That’s a tough question, because there have been so many breathtaking moments! But I’ll give it a go:
  • Hiking through the “sky island” ranges in Southern Arizona, where you go from prickly pear to ponderosa pines and back down again, often through wonderful rock formations. Tough because of the elevation gain, but worth every step.
  • The solitude of hiking for days without seeing another person.
  • Finding perfect camping spots with a view of the spectacular Arizona sunset and sunrise.
  • Seeing people’s eyes light up when sharing my favorite places on the public hikes and backpacking trips.
  • Backpacking through the rugged and remote Mazatzal Wilderness: over 60 miles of trail between vehicle access points, with some of the most wonderful geology, camps and views on the whole trail.
  • The women’s backpacking trip was such a wonderful experience: I had nine women and a mini-donkey along for three days from Mormon Lake to just south of Flagstaff. It was a fantastic group, and there were a lot of laughs.
  • When I hiked the Arizona Trail in sections in 2008-09, there were quite a few pieces that had not yet been built and others that have been rerouted. It’s been fun to see the new trail! Also, there has been a tremendous amount of work to rehab parts of the trail that have been damaged by fires. All of the improvements I’ve seen cost money, which is why it’s so important to me to raise the $20,000 for the trail.


What challenges have you faced that you might not have expected before you started?
The main challenge of this trek is the continued intensity without a real break. In two months, I have had only one or two real days off where I didn’t have an event, interviews, promotion, planning or writing to catch up on.


Overall, has the journey been easier or harder than you anticipated?
The journey has been about as tough as I’d expected. I knew I was committing to a lot by not only hiking the trail, but having events and public hikes and backpacking trips along the way. It’s been exhausting at times, but worth every bit of effort.


How has the turnout and reception been at the stops along the trail?
It’s been wonderful! All of the gateway community events have been well-attended, enjoyable evenings with great music, food and Arizona Trail Ale. It’s been great to have hikers, bikers and equestrians at the events sharing their love for the trail.


What parts of the trek are still to come? Are there particular parts that you’re looking forward to?
I have two weeks left to hike from Flagstaff to the Utah border, about 200 miles. The Grand Canyon is the crown jewel of the Arizona Trail and my favorite place in the world. I’ve hiked rim to rim many times, but it will be such an accomplishment to arrive having walked from Mexico! I can hardly wait to hike down to the Colorado River and relax at the boat beach. I work on the river as a guide in the summertime for Arizona River Runners and will be starting my river season shortly after my trek.

Also, the last passage into the Utah border is one of my favorites; it’s a striking transition from the forested Kaibab Plateau to the colorful sandstone formations of Utah. Then it’s over to the town of Page for my big finale celebration!

It has been a dream of mine to thru-hike the Arizona Trail since 2007 and I am so grateful to have not only this experience, but to also be able to share it with so many other people. It’s been wonderful to educate folks about this amazing resource that links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people across the state. Hope to see you on the Arizona Trail!


Filed under Et Cetera, Hiking, Make a Difference, Q&A

Q&A: Disabled Teen and Family Prepare to Tackle the Grand Canyon

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.05.42 AM

“He is always asking me why people keep helping, and does that mean everyone loves him? Then he just smiles really big.” — Jill Castle

When Jill Castle’s son, Anthony, 14, asked his mother to help him cross off an item on his bucket list — he wanted to hike into the Grand Canyon— Castle didn’t hesitate. On its face, this might seem like a relatively easy request. Anthony, however, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). According to Castle, DMD is “the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed in childhood,” and life expectancy is “approximately 20 years.”

Around the time Anthony transitioned into a wheelchair, the nonprofit organization Daring Adventures came into the Castles’ lives. “I realized they were the perfect teammate to make this happen,” Castle says. On May 3, Anthony, with the help of several volunteers and his family, will descend the Grand Canyon. Below, Castle talks about their upcoming trek and how it has transformed them both.

Why did Anthony want to hike into the Grand Canyon?
I think for him, it was really simple. He just wanted to get to the bottom — to get into the Colorado River and see the wonder of the Canyon.

When Anthony asked you to help him climb into the Grand Canyon, what was your response?
I was excited, because I love adventures, and I even love what others say can’t be done. This is one of many things we have done that folks said we couldn’t. We find it fun to be the exception. However, looking realistically at the place we are in, with Anthony transitioning off his feet, I was afraid I wouldn’t have the energy to coordinate this. But the more excited he got at the possibility, the less I worried about me.

What’s going through Anthony’s mind as he gets ready for the hike?
I think he’s really tickled that so many are supporting this. He is always asking me why people keep helping, and does that mean everyone loves him? Then he just smiles really big.

Courtesy of Jill Castle

Courtesy of Jill Castle

Talk to us about the training regimen. What’s involved, and how is Anthony preparing himself for this challenge?
We have been hiking every week for the last few months. We are carrying him at least 7 miles every time we hike, but I’m still not sure that’s enough. I think everyone is training on their own as well. I know I am. Most everyone on the carrying team is either an elite athlete, a world-class hiker or a fire-department search-and-rescue worker. All that’s left is the family. Anthony’s dad is carrying, and his fiancée, Dee Dee, and I are in charge of trying to keep up to take care of Anthony. There will be two EMTs on the trip, but he needs to be adjusted and stretched every 20 minutes or so, as well as kept hydrated and fed. Dee Dee and I will alternate, keeping up with the crew so there is always one of us with him. My other son, Oliver, is going as well and although he seems so much more mature, he is only 12, and this will be challenging. My boyfriend, Doug, will help take care of him as well.

Anthony does know it’s going to be hard. He is working on communicating his needs, which can be challenging for him. He knows that’s his job. He is also being very dedicated to his regimen this month prior, with stretching, meds and nutrition. He knows we can’t slack at all.

How will Anthony get down into the Canyon?
We will carry him in a custom chair called a Safari Chair. Mike Box made it for Phoenix Adaptive Recreation, and Daring Adventure now owns it. It has been customized for Anthony, but it is light and has wheels with poles to pull like a rickshaw. When the terrain gets too rough or too narrow, then the wheels clip off, the poles slide back and he is then carried like a pharaoh. He loves that, and it suits his little attitude. There are 10 sets of two carrying him and alternating approximately every 20 minutes. We will have a fresh changeout team at the halfway point: Indian Garden Campground. We estimate with the crew, it will take 10 hours to get him out.

Courtesy of Jill Castle

Courtesy of Jill Castle

How many people will be helping you on this adventure?
We have 19 staying at the bottom that will be part of him getting down, running the camp once we are down there and starting the trek out. We have another six who are so fit, they are able to come up and down as needed within the days. And we have another six staying at Indians Garden Campground for the halfway changeout. We also will have a “base camp” on top to support everyone and provide a nice meal when we make it up. I believe there are about 10 folks there. Lastly, there are quite a few family and friends coming to day-hike down as far as they can and walk out with him.

It seems like preparing for this adventure has given you a lot of time to think. On your blog, you talk about hope, humility and self-compassion. What has been going through your mind as you prepare to descend the Canyon?
The Canyon is a perfect metaphor for DMD. There are a lot of challenges and fears, but a ton of joy and love. When you have a child with this condition, you have to pace yourself and condition for the long haul. The journey can be unbelievably painful and unbelievably joyful; self-discovery is just moments later. I think in order to not just survive, but enjoy both endeavors, you have to be able to be open to what you are learning, accept help and stay connected to the moment. In the Canyon, no matter how painful or hard it gets for me personally, I will be thinking of my sons and how my strength and perseverance will give them comfort in their time of need. That is the same goal I have in DMD with regards to our family. My boys see me in pain, cry, be honest and ask for help when needed. But even more importantly, they see me regroup, get back up and keep going with a smile on my face. If they never saw me struggle, they would never learn how to get back up. They see me being hopeful that the joy will always compensate for the pain, and I believe, on a smaller scale, that will be exactly the case in the Canyon. In our journey in DMD, as well as into the Grand Canyon, we want to show everyone that to experience the good stuff, we must focus on what we can do, not what we can’t — regardless of what we think our limitations are. There is always something to be grateful for, and we are responsible to find it.

How can folks help out?
They could donate to our fundraiser at They can also donate any supplies we may need for the climb in and out. We are looking for sponsors for food, gear and any other help folks would like to provide.

For more information about Anthony’s trip into the Grand Canyon, visit:


—Kathy Ritchie


Filed under Hiking, Make a Difference

Help Save Kolb Studio

5172_Kolb_Posters-RIVER-12x18-HIGH RESKolb Studio needs your help. Perched on the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the 109-year-old building is in need of some serious repair. Earlier this year, the Grand Canyon Association launched a fundraising campaign to save this historic site. Over the years, countless visitors and extreme weather have taken a toll on the structure. The association hopes to raise $400,000 by the end of the year (they’ve raised $273,752 to date) to replace the entryway; repair and replace structural beams, wooden porches, and log and shingle siding; and remedy other issues. The goal is to restore the structural integrity so visitors can continue to learn about the Kolb brothers and the Grand Canyon.

Below, director of communications and publishing Miriam Robbins talks about the Save Kolb Studio campaign and why your help is desperately needed.

Talk to us about the Save Kolb Studio campaign. How did it come to be?
The Grand Canyon Association is Grand Canyon National Park’s official nonprofit partner. In additional to running seven bookstores at the park and several programs for the public like the Grand Canyon Field Institute, we raise funds to help with specific park projects every year. Kolb Studio is more than 100 years old and was built literally on the edge of the rim of Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon Association are stewards to this building, and we run one of our stores out the building and ensure that the historic integrity of the building is intact. While Kolb has undergone some restoration over time, the hard weather conditions at Grand Canyon and the age of this historic building require that we provide some maintenance to the building so that it’s structurally sound and maintained for future visitor use.

Why is this campaign so important? What’s going on?
Right now, Kolb Studio is open to the public as a retail store for Grand Canyon Association; we also run an exhibit hall there (currently showing The Amazing Kolb Brothers). There is also a large area of the building that is only open for special tours. This area was the main residence of the Kolb family for decades. If the building is not restored at this time, we may not be able to allow public visitation to this building.  It is a valuable historic site, and its preservation ensures people can learn about the early pioneers, the Kolb brothers, for many generations to come.

5172_Kolb_Posters-STUDIO-12x18-LOW RES
Who were the Kolb brothers and what did they do?
Ellsworth and Emery Kolb ventured to Grand Canyon National Park in the early 19-teens of last century. They were entrepreneurial and started a photography business to capture tourist photos at Grand Canyon. They originally got a small piece of land on the rim from early pioneer John Cameron before Grand Canyon was a national park. In fact, at that time, the popular Bright Angel Trail was a toll road, charging a fee of $1 to enter. Kolb Studio started out in a tent, then a small, one-room house that they built up over time.  The brother’s photography business flourished, and they took many photos of people coming down Bright Angel Trail — especially on mules. In the early years, they did not have water at the rim, so one brother would hike 4 miles down to Indian Garden, where there were springs, to develop the photos and then hike back up to deliver the prints to the tourists. The Kolbs were also known as daredevils and would hike into the Canyon to capture images that no one else could reach by hanging off cliffs and rocks. They also made a movie of their harrowing trip down the Colorado River, which was shown all over the country and at Kolb Studio until the 1970s. This video encouraged people from all over the world to visit the Grand Canyon. Over time, Ellsworth and Emery parted ways, but Emery stayed and continued showing the movie while raising a family at Kolb Studio. After Emery’s death, the Park Service took ownership of the building, and it was refurbished and turned into a store and interpretive facility in the 1990s by the Grand Canyon Association.

What role does Kolb Studio play at the Grand Canyon today?
Grand Canyon Association park stores sell products relating to Grand Canyon. In addition to the 44 books published by the Grand Canyon Association, we also sell other gift and educational items, including junior-ranger materials, jewelry, T-shirts and water bottles. Our mission is to educate the public about Grand Canyon National Park, so all our products help people understand the Grand Canyon. Purchases are tax free, and all proceeds help support Grand Canyon National Park. Kolb Studio also has long-term exhibits that rotate out every few years — The Amazing Kolb Brothers is currently showing, and it talks about the history and lives of the Kolb brothers and the building; and every September through January, there is an exhibit and sale of the Plein Air paintings for the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art event. During the winter months, Grand Canyon rangers hold daily tours of the Kolb Studio residence, which is normally closed to the public.

How can our readers help Save Kolb?
Share the website and learn more about the Kolb brothers, their history and the importance of this historic building. You can also make a donation. If you make a donation of $75 or more, you’ll receive a Kolb poster. There are four posters to choose from, each showing a depiction of one of the Kolbs’ photos.  They are custom designed 12×18 posters (not framed).  You can also share your photos and stories on the Grand Canyon Association Facebook page.

—Kathy Ritchie

Leave a comment

Filed under Eco Issues, History, Make a Difference, Q&A, Things to Do