From camping in the backyard at age 8 to camping in the North Pole less than 25 years later, Ann Bancroft has reached for the top of the world, and conquered it. “Sometimes, my peers didn’t value my uniqueness in a variety of ways,” Bancroft says. “I always knew I was a weird kid, but in my family, I was just fine.”
Bancroft grew up in the North Country of Minnesota, where the outdoor life was just out her back door. Trips camping with her father helped foster what would become a lifelong yen for adventure. As a shy child, she used her love of the wilderness as a way to connect to the world.
“There were books on the bookshelf [about explorers] that sort of lured me in. It was always easier for me than being around people at the time,” Bancroft recalls.
The explorer also used her love of the outdoors as a way to be outgoing, and help overcome her shyness around others: “Camp was always good for me. I was able to be more myself and outgoing. I distinctly remember pictures of guys on the ice and that feeling of camaraderie. I think I was attracted to that.”
Today, Bancroft uses her life experiences to help girls who don’t have the opportunities she did growing up.
In Bancroft’s words, “When I came back from the North Pole, my world was turned upside down. People were making such a big deal about my being the first woman. I had an opportunity as a trailblazer. I wanted to do something with that.”
And do something Bancroft did. Now, she heads the Ann Bancroft Foundation.
As the explorer explains, “Starting the foundation was really an opportunity with something I got. I have an incredibly supportive family, so many girls don’t have that for one reason or another.”
Seven years ago, the Dare to Dream Grant began with the hope that young girls would be given the opportunities that location, finances, or other reasons may be preventing them from achieving their dreams and goals. Some of the grants have been used for space camp and driver’s education, as well as programs like drug prevention, language, music, and theater.
As Bancroft shares, “One girl this year is learning Tae Kwon Do, a really young girl who has a hard time dealing with her anger, and knows this, and is learning to channel it, even though she’s only 11.”
Bancroft sums up, “I feel really lucky for the way that my life journey has worked out. I’m an elementary teacher by trade, so I get to mix these expeditions with a loose way of teaching. I have lots of different experiences. I feel lucky for that.”
For additional information, visit www.annbancroftfoundation.org.