Matthew Weatherley-White 

Matthew Weatherley-White is no stranger to blazing his own path. As an adventure racer, he's used to taking challenges head-on, and as one of the founding board members of the Lee Pesky Learning Center, he's helping children learn to do the same.

Married to artist Andrea Sparrow, Weatherley-White has gone from competitive athlete to journalist and now co-owns CAProck Group, a financial planning company that specializes in managing family wealth through the generations.

Weatherley-White took a break last week to talk to BW about his work in the community.

What made you want to work with the Learning Center?

As a writer, I understand that books are the only way to bring a sense of humanity into our lives, even if it's a vicarious one. In our ever increasingly interconnected global society, we've got the temptation—we see it in our society all the time, we see it as a gradual gravitation toward nationalist geopolitics. We see it in a willingness to eliminate the vocabulary of tolerance in our public discourse.

Books are the only tools we have to bring tolerance and understanding of total strangers into our lives. This is the only way to do it. So if you strip a society of its capacity to communicate through the written word, then you strip the society, I think, of its essential humanity.

Right below that, imagine if you were a kid, a totally bright kid, and just because you have a learning difference, you can't read. Our society is predicated upon the ability to communicate. If you can't communicate ... you just can't get anywhere in your life.

How did you end up in Boise?

After college, I kind of punched out and went to Ketchum for a few years and just knocked around the mountain and folded towels at the athletic club and worked for the Daily Sun and then worked for the Idaho Mountain Express. Then realized that my capacity to build a life in Ketchum was nonexistent. There weren't any jobs that would allow me to get beyond simply paying the bills. So I saved up a little bit of money and moved to Boise. Bought a little house on the North End. I've been here for 17 years.

What's your goal for the Learning Center?

The goal has always been focused on one idea—that the child that comes through our doors with a learning difference is the most important person at the center. So we do a lot of one-on-one remediation with kids, and the mission has evolved over the last decade to include a great deal of work with school districts, individual schools, teacher training, a lot of consulting work, so that sort of core mission of helping the kid with learning differences function in the world has really expanded to trying to help entire school systems handle the issue of learning differences more efficiently.

What are learning differences?

I use that word all the time instead of learning disabilities because I think that—and this might sound like a little bit of propaganda—but I think that one of the great misfortunes of learning differences is that it got wrapped up in the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act because then it created this whole dynamic around how schools treat children with learning disabilities and differences. It doesn't make them feel like they are as good as all the other kids. I think that's a real shame.

You spend your off-time doing some serious sports, including adventure racing. How long have you been doing that?

I've been doing that for six years. I've been a competitive athlete my whole life. I was on the U.S. Rowing team. I was on the U.S. Development Alpine Racing Team when I was a kid. I've medaled in national and international levels in four different sports—it's just been a really big part of my life. I really missed that competition. I realized that I'm sort of hard-wired for competition, but I don't like that. I don't appreciate how that makes me behave in my life. What I've discovered is if I have a really structured outlet for that, then it doesn't squirt out like toothpaste elsewhere in my life.

How are the races structured?

I was with a team, Team Montrail, which was the No. 1 team in the world three years ago, we won the world championships.

Adventure races also involve an enormous amount of organizational skill, navigational skill, as well as all the fitness. Because when you arrive at the start line, you don't know where you're going. The race organization provides you with maps at the beginning of the race.

So you don't know what's to come?

The race organization will send you a welcome package, and they'll tell you all of the sports you need to be prepared to do. And every adventure race has trail running or cross country running, some kind of water travel, kayaking, canoeing, down-water swimming, whatever, ropes work, ascending or descending technical terrain and mountain biking.

What are some of the more unusual things you've had to do?

Some of them have riding camels, riding on horses. We did a race in Borneo that involved making a sledge to be dragged behind a water buffalo, and we had to transport ourselves and a whole shitload of stuff with this water buffalo, which was hilarious. This team from Finland was there, and one of the guys decided he was going to try to ride the water buffalo. That didn't work well. He ended up dislocating his shoulder, getting ejected from the water buffalo.

How long are the races?

They're nonstop races, and the expedition length races last anywhere from five to 10 days.

Are you still actively competing?

I stopped adventure racing last year. Starting this business was just too demanding. I did the national 100K trail running championships earlier this year and got third. I'll continue to compete.

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