Posted on December 6, 2023 in Articles
From the tranquil Towpath in Cleveland to the awe-inspiring heights of Kilimanjaro and the grueling trails of a 70.3 ironman, Roseanne Nowinski Deucher ’88 let these defining moments reveal to her a lifelong passion for adventure and deep-rooted commitment to supporting community.
Embark with us on the captivating journey as Roseanne took this passion and transitioned from a career in leadership positions in nonprofits to founding All Forward, an organization that customizes outdoor experiences, along the Towpath and in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, focused on leadership, team building and well-being while intentionally supporting local nonprofits and small businesses along the way.
What inspired you to start All Forward and to do this work?
I am a mom of four sons and when they were younger, I wanted to keep them moving – to stay healthy and explore new places. We began with short hikes in the Cleveland Metroparks (with lots of snacks) and then began exploring the National Parks and finally internationally hiking including the Camino de Santiago. We coined the term FFF – Forced Family Fun. It was initially hard to wrangle them to get out on the trail, but once we started moving it was magical. (As young adults, they all do outdoor activities by choice!) When I told my sons I was starting this company they said, “Wait. People are going to pay you for FFF?!” I said that is the idea!
Volunteering and connecting with the community are cornerstones of who I am. Among several volunteer roles, I serve on the board of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition, preserving the Ohio & Erie Canal which includes a 101-mile multi-use towpath crossing through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Years ago, the towpath was where I experience my first century cycling ride and half marathon which not only sparked my interest to support this community resource, but also laid the foundation and made connections for my outdoor adventures including Cycle Oregon, Ragbrai, summiting Kilimanjaro and 70.3 Ironman.
My passion for outdoor adventures has allowed me the opportunity to connect with diverse people/communities nationally/ internationally through a shared experience: adventure trekking, long distance cycling, triathlons, open water swimming and rowing. These experiences create a “golden thread” connecting me to people and places that I may have otherwise never encountered and provided the inspiration for All Forward. I then amped up my training and I participated in several National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) courses and expeditions to destinations across the globe and brought my learnings back to NEO.
All Forward creates micro adventures in our very own backyard in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and surrounding area. It is a natural playground for practicing leadership, team building and well-being in a unique setting.
A friend once said, “everything is better outside.” Being outside, moving and connecting with others makes me feel alive. I am energized by introducing people to new experiences and helping them stretch into their learning zones.
The average professional spends 9.3 hours sitting and 7.7 hours sleeping each day. This sedentary lifestyle makes sitting the new smoking. Not only is it not good for people, it's not good for organizations.
All Forward makes it easy for people to experience joy, reconnect, refresh and grow. People can return with a renewed sense of vitality, a fresh point of view and tangible skills.
This region is overflowing with natural resources, history, creativity and verve that enable and inspire people to strive. It provides varied organic experiences for well-being, leadership, team building and community engagement.
Explore on foot, bike, water and rail via Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cuyahoga River Water Trail, Ohio Scenic Byway and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. This historic region is a National Heritage Area.
Fueled by the “can-do” attitude of its residents, the region is home to an entrepreneurial economy. Farmers and artisans open their doors, share their stories and spark inspiration.
What has been the biggest challenge of the work you do?
We live in NEO...weather. Adaptability has been critical. However, changes in weather allows participants to practice adaptability which is a key leadership and team attribute.
Being an entrepreneur is like traveling solo in the wild west. It can be a lonely journey at times. You have to actively find or create communities of support.
What is the most rewarding part of the work you do?
Helping people “find THEIR epic moments.” By providing a safe environment, people can experience things for the first time or from a different perspective. Some of the most rewarding moments are when someone notices how different the air smells in the park compared to their typical urban surroundings or taking someone hiking off-trail for the first time which begins with feelings of hesitation and doubt, but their confidence gradually builds as I coach them in finding their own path through the forest, dense foliage, uneven ground, around and over downed trees and through rivers. I have the joy of introducing people to the wilderness in an entirely different way.
It is rewarding to work with young professionals who are beginning their self-exploration (especially first-generation college students) to those who are young at hear connecting with their playfulness inside. A favorite experience was hosting an 80th birthday with hiking, cycling, and riding the train. The Birthday "boy" completed various activities in the park including skipping at a train station, hopping in a lock and recalling all the National Parks visited over decades to earn an official Jr. Ranger Badge for ages 8 and up. Yep, he was even sworn in by the Park Ranger!
What advice do you have for someone that is embarking on a transition in their work or career?
We are continuously evolving and that allows us to grow.
Move away from the things that are no longer serving you to allow room for growth and new opportunities.
A transition in work/career needs to be the right time in your life professionally, personally and financially. However, my friend has a sticky note on her wall that reads, "If not now, when?"
I love Tim Ferriss' TedTalk where he focused on how to become comfortable with discomfort and outlined a "fear setting" exercise when making a decision. The Cost of Inaction really resonated with me - what is the cost (emotionally, physically, financially, etc.) of not doing anything. This exercise actually helped me leave a comfort zone and take a risk of building my next venture. It has been both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
I went through an exercise with 4 questions as I explored "what's next?":
What characteristics helped you as you transitioned through the steps of your career to starting your own business, and what advice do you for someone that is embarking on a transition in their work or career?
Some of the things that helped me transition in my career included doing something that I'm incredibly passionate about and building on past experiences and networks (even right here at Beaumont). I was not starting from square one. I knew my skills could be transferred to another career.
Networking is my superpower. This can be at formal events, but I create authentic connections over shared experiences as well – it might be a 100-mile bike ride, hiking off trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with the Cleveland Hiking Club, rowing on the Cuyahoga River with the Western Reserve Rowing Association. Side by side conversations are so natural when moving. I would recommend to anyone looking to make a change, understand this concept of “the strength of weak ties.” Close friends are important – but research shows that building networks of casual acquaintances can boost happiness, knowledge, and a sense of belonging. For NEW information and ideas, weak ties are more important to us than strong ones.
• Create the Space… say yes to opportunities (travel, retreats, etc.) and give time to reflect on them. This needs to be intentional.
• Volunteer…serve on a board, pro bono consulting or direct service.
• Learn…from getting an additional degree or certificate to taking a class, workshop or attending community forums, events that increase your awareness of issues impacting our community.
• Not everyone is going to be your cheerleader during this journey. Find your people who give you energy!
• The “next step” is not the final step. The next step doesn’t have to be your “dream” work or career, but something that brings you more joy, learning, and new experiences/connections.
A transition in work/career needs to be the right time in your life professionally, personally, and financially. However, my friend has a sticky note on her wall that reads, “If not now, when?”
At Beaumont, we hold Dynamic Adaptability to be an important part of Ursuline Charism. Has your time at Beaumont impacted you in your life and these transitions? If so, how?
Beaumont helped lay my faith foundation. During these transitional times, this has allowed me to trust that God has a plan for each of us and puts people and opportunities in your life. It is in these moments, when change and moving forward is hard, that we need to look at things differently, embrace possibility, believe in ourselves and trust others and God. Nature teaches us that moving forward is part of life. My time at Beaumont helped set me on a path of discovery and self-confidence to explore new things, take chances, and follow my heart. During my time on the Beaumont Board of Directors in 2014-2020, I was heartened to see that culture remains.
What advice would you have for a Beaumont student/soon to be graduate?
Mary Oliver wrote, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Listen to your inner voice. Put your energy out into the universe.
Keep moving forward. Focus on taking the next step when you feel paralyzed by what might seem like an enormous undertaking.
We will fail, but fall forward. Everyone makes mistakes; that’s how we learn and grow. Be curious, be bold, take thoughtful risks. Learn how to take your Ls (losses) and take it with a lesson and move forward.
Be you and find your authentic voice. Find your EPIC.
To learn more about All Forward, go to allforward.us.