At a time when drugs, drinking and teen suicide are claiming an unprecedented number of young people, the ANASAZI Foundation continues to show remarkable success in turning the tide for at-risk youth.

Sheer longevity speaks volumes, as this year, the nonprofit organization celebrates its 25th anniversary of helping teenagers to “find their way in the world” through a 49-day wilderness experience and what they call a new way of “walking.”

The anniversary celebration will include a star-studded weekend, with a gala dinner and silent auction on Friday, Nov. 15, and, on Saturday, Nov. 16, a service project and country concert produced by R Legacy Entertainment.

As ANASAZI gears up for the celebration and reunion of alumni, parents and fans, particularly telling of the organization’s success is the long list of supporters, including bestselling authors, Stephen R. Covey and Richard Paul Evans; NFL hall of famers, Bart Starr and Steve Young; and award-winning musicians, Marie Osmond and Wynonna Judd — who calls the program “inspiring.” These and many others echo Barbara Bush, who said of ANASAZI, “… you are truly lighting the way for people lost in the dark.”

Even more impressive, perhaps, are the accolades from the more than 4,000 young people who have participated in the ANASAZI wilderness experience.

“I’m just so grateful. They literally saved my life. They gave me back my life, in all reality,” said Shari Lyon, an alumnus from the early years of ANASAZI.

According to cofounder, Ezekiel Sanchez, this kind of turnaround from “backward walking”—taking the wrong paths, trying to go it alone or choosing to give in to addictions or to dead-end sources to find peace and fulfillment—is exactly what he and Larry D. Olsen hoped to accomplish when they started ANASAZI in 1988.

Their mission and goal was to provide focused intervention programs that would offer young people “the opportunity for growth through a primitive living experience and a philosophy that invites healing at the hands of nature.” The ANASAZI Way has become recognized internationally as an effective and nurturing approach to inviting lasting change in youth and young adults making at-risk choices.

According to C. Terry Warner, chairman of The Arbinger Institute, “The students’ progress continually amazes me. It far exceeds that of troubled youth in any of the other rehabilitative programs I have been able to learn about, including counseling, therapy, and psychiatry in both residential and outpatient settings.”

Most of all, Sanchez said, “The program brings families back together, so there is healing all around.”

ANASAZI’s 25th anniversary was marked by a significant milestone earlier this year, with the publication of The Seven Paths: Changing One’s Way of Walking in the World, an adaptation of the book used on the trail, which now makes the ANASAZI principles accessible to all.

To further recognize the organization’s success and accomplishments, alumni, parents and welcomed guests will gather for ANASAZI Foundation’s Silver Anniversary: 25 Years of Awakening Hearts to WE, two days of service and celebration on Nov. 15 and 16.

A gala will be held Friday, Nov. 15, with a scholarship dinner and silent auction at the SanTan Elegante Conference Center in Gilbert. With master of ceremonies, 7-foot-4-inch NBA all-star Mark Eaton, the program will include presentation of the Young Leader Awards and the Turn for Peace Award. Entertainment for the evening will be provided by “The Voice” contestant, Ryan Innes, with special guest, Amy Whitcomb.

On Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Mesa Arts Center, ANASAZI will host an alumni lunch and service project. The project will reach out to area youth and allow them to experience a variety of simple wilderness skills in workshops taught by ANASAZI alumni.

That evening, a benefit concert at the Mesa Arts Center, produced by R Legacy Entertainment in support of ANASAZI, will feature Due West — the three-man group that recently hit #7 on the iTunes country chart and have been acclaimed for their “magical showmanship” and unique sound. Opening will be singer/songwriter Katherine Nelson and the three-sister combo country group, Firefly, known for their “brilliant harmonies” and “energetic performances.”

For tickets to the gala or to learn how to support ANASAZI’s work, visit: www.anasazi.org. For tickets to the Saturday night concert, visit www.mesaartscenter.com.

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