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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Gold Star Teen Adventures

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Education, Leadership Development, Military & Veterans Organizations, Secondary & High Schools, Veterans, Youth Development

Mission: Gold Star Teen Adventures provides year-round adventure opportunities for the children of fallen military members, first responders, and from our nation’s intelligence community who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The purpose of the program is to provide healing, leadership development and opportunity.

Results: Over the past 7 years, Gold Star Teen Adventures has served over 400 participants through adventures providing opportunity, healing, mentorship and leadership and character development. The adventures provided by GSTA include hunting, gun safety, marksmanship training, leadership development, scuba diving, survival training with opportunities to utilize the skills acquired during training. Over 300 teens have earned their Open Water Scuba Certification, over 200 have earned their Advanced Certification and their Nitrox , and 200 have earned their Rescue level training. GSTA works to provide opportunity for healing, growth, and development through adventure experiences.

Target demographics: The purpose of our programs is to provide healing, leadership development, and opportunity. Our team aims to serve the surviving children of our valiant military servicemen, law enforcers, first responders, and government agency officials.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 141 participants

Geographic areas served: Gold Star Teen Adventures offers unique, fun, and impactful outdoor adventures to the children of our nation’s heroes who lost their lives in the line of duty. Our organization was founded on a vision of providing an environment where youth can come together and be a part of new and exciting experiences with others who have shared a similar journey.

Programs: GSTA Scuba Academy: Scuba Adventure 101, Advanced Scuba Adventure 201, Wreck Trek Adventure 301, Rescue Diver Scuba Adventure 401. GSTA Outdoor Academy: Outdoor Leadership Adventure 101, Granite Leadership Adventure 201, Wilderness First Aid Leadership Adventure 301, Canoe Leadership Adventure 401. GSTA non-academy programs: Hunting, gun safety, marksmanship training, Junior Warrior Weekend, Annual Adventure Race.

Community Stories

41 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Trase S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

GSTA is truly a unique and phenomenal organization that provides unparalleled experiences, relationships, and character development to all those who attend. Each individual who has participated in a GSTA event has left as an improved version of themselves. This speaks volumes not only about the teens and team leaders but the professionalism and expertise of the staff who organize and pour their hearts into each and every event.

I have had the honor of serving as a mentor since 2016 and am constantly looking forward to the next GSTA event the moment one finishes; this is all thanks to such an amazing community who quickly became a part of my family.

GSTA has ultimately become a top tier Gold Star organization that continues to better itself in efforts to provide premiere opportunities for the Teens. Thank you to everyone who has participated with, donated to, or supported this fantastic team.

Samantha P.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have had the incredible privilege to see GSTA grow over the past few years. This organization isn't just another nonprofit, it is family. Beyond amazing adventures, GSTA helped me grow more confident as an individual. Much love!

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2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a "Gold Star Teen," and have had the amazing opportunity to be actively involved with the organization for almost 5 years now!! I have since graduated from the program, and get the incredible privilege to continue with the organization as a GSTA mentor. It is such an honor to be able to serve an organization that has personally given me so much healing and provided me with a community of amazing people who know and understand my story! GSTA is an organization truly worth your contribution because they so the extra mile. The relationships built through each adventure extends far into the daily lives of each teen by giving each teen a community that is dependable and cares for them on a personal level!

Akira L.

Donor

Rating: 5

A phenomenal non-profit doing amazing work. They provide a unique and well organized opportunity to an otherwise largely unserved demographic. I've been honored to be involved in a few events and have been blown away every time.

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2

Donor

Rating: 5

GSTA is an incredible organization. From the ground up their focus is ALWAYS on the teens that they serve. I have fundraised for them 3 times so far and been lucky enough to meet the incredibly kind and hardworking members of their organization and some of the Gold Star Teens. Their focus on their incredibly important mission and the efficiency with which they run makes them a fantastic organization that I proudly support.

Shaina S.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had the pleasure to see both sides of GSTA, both as a teen participant and a team leader when I aged out. I started with GSTA when they first started, and through the years with the growth of the organization, they continued to feel like a family. The organization helped me really get out my shell and become the person I am today. The events that I attended as a teen, helped me practice my leadership, communication, and team skills, skills that I use to this day in my leadership role. 7 years later I am in my graduate year in college, and I'm still involved with this amazing organization. I hope to stay with them for as long as I can.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I worked with GSTA while serving as the Commander of Special Forces Underwater Operations (SFUWO) in Key West. Each year GSTA spends a week at SFUWO diving and adventuring with the teens. Observing this organization, their professional and compassionate leaders, and hearing the incredible stories of the teens is absolutely inspirational. GSTA is a worthy cause and is the only organization I’ve ever seen that focuses on building common bonds among teens who’ve suffered such tragic loss. GSTA builds them up and provides an incredible foundation allowing them to excel in life. Each summer I see countless success stories on my Facebook newsfeed of these teens going to college, working, joining the military, and becoming extremely talented and productive members of society. It’s an honor to see them excel and I’m confident GSTA is a major part of the foundation that allows them to rise above the pain of their loss.

Amanda O.2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Gold Star Teen Adventures really filled a gap for our family that we might not have known was there. Raising teenagers is exciting and challenging! Dealing with loss adds another complicated layer. The experiences, fellowship and adventure that GSTA provided ( all at no cost to our family)was an important healing and fun component. I ( surviving spouse spec ops)would not otherwise been able to provide such an amazing growth opportunity - thank you GSTA!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had the opportunity to volunteer with GSTA for several years. This is the real deal! GSTA puts the health and welfare of every Gold Star Teen first and foremost. This organization does not just offer camps and opportunities but has also incorporated a mentoring program for each participant. These mentors are invaluable resources for these teens. There is so much good that this organization does! We continue to support Gold Star Teen Adventures every year and encourage you to look into this worthy, volunteer organization.

Client Served

Rating: 5

GSTA is easily one of the best things to ever happen to me. I started going to these camps when I was 15, and they changed my life. They gave me family, hope, a new perspective, strength, and taught me how to be a leader and help others. I know i’ll never be alone because I will always have my GSTA family behind me no matter where i’m at in life. I’d do anything for them, and there’s no doubt in my mind they would do the same for me.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was introduced to GSTA last year and was incredibly impressed by the family atmosphere that the organization creates. I’ve never met a more cohesive group of teens, united by shared experiences. The group’s senior leadership works incredibly hard to make the adventures full of top notch opportunities for high adventure and sharpening of skills most kids never are able to experience. I count myself blessed that I was able to find GSTA and I intend to continue volunteering with them for years to come.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I discovered GSTA recently and was blown away by the family atmosphere that the organization creates. I’ve never met a more cohesive group of teens, united by shared experiences. The group’s senior leadership works incredibly hard to make the adventures full of top notch opportunities for high adventure and sharpening of skills most kids never have to opportunity to build. I’m so lucky to have had my path cross with GSTA!

Kaylee S.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

GSTA continues to be such a blessing to me. The adventures are fun-filled & such a great place for gold star teens to meet others that have shared a similar experience. The people I have met truly have become like family to me!

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1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Gold Star Teen Adventures is an absolutely incredible nonprofit. I attended my first adventure as a gold Star Teen in 2014, and the relationships that I have built from the organization are some of my very favorite ever. GSTA offers once in a lifetime opportunities to the children of our fallen, who have sacrificed so much. While most of these trips are a week long, this group has become family & they are in it for the long haul. It’s been five years since my first adventure, and they continue to invest in me and encourage me to do great things.

Olivia S.4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Gold Star Teen Adventures is a top-tier non-profit with a professional staff and mission unlike any out there. GSTA is a close knit family environment built on a foundation of trust, selfless service, and commitment. I have been a mentor and team leader in this organization for almost 6 years and can honestly say it is the best experience and team I’ve ever been on. I’m active duty military and try to volunteer whenever my schedule allows. They have always welcomed me and other mentors with open arms. I have made so many friends and people I truly consider my family now.

GSTA is always looking to make each experience better than the last and our teens have grown into incredible leaders in their communities because of this organization. The GSTA Board of Directors commits itself to giving donations directly to each adventure/experience and builds new experiences for our Gold Star families every year. I can’t say enough great things about GSTA and hope that the word gets out there about how committed they are to helping American heroes and their families.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I’ve been apart of Gold star teen adventures for 3 years now, and the people that run this organization are the most selfless, loving, and the most extraordinary people I have met in my entire life. Gold star isn’t just an organization it’s family; a lot of organizations like this describe themselves as that, but honestly this one is true to that statement. This organization has helped me so much with school, major life decisions. They’re not only mentors but role models as well; they love and care for us kids as if we were they’re own kids. The relationships I’ve made from GSTA are life long. I’ve had the opportunity to be a kid at this organization and I can’t wait to be a mentor to kids that are in the same position I am. I will forever be in-debt to this family. Thank you Gold start teen adventures you’ve honestly changed my life!

Client Served

Rating: 5

My granddaughter was 13 when she lost her father in Afghanistan. Thirteen is a difficult age under normal circumstances; losing a parent at that age is devastating. My granddaughter was angry; she refused counseling and kept her emotions to herself. I was worried about her but there was nothing I could do to help. GSTA came to her rescue. With each outdoor adventure and the connection to others who understood, she became more confident and less angry. Today she is in her junior year of college and finds joy in giving back to the organization by being a mentor to younger Gold Star Teens.

Alison L.2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Gold Star Teen Adventures has given me a community, and I am so blessed to be involved with such an amazing and impactful organization. I went to my first GSTA camp in 2014, and I have truly found a family in the people I have been fortunate enough to meet through this organization. We are united through our loss of a parent in the military, but that loss does not define us. Because of GSTA, I have been backpacking in the mountains of North Carolina, trekked through the jungles of Belize, and gone SCUBA diving in some of the most amazing places in the world, including Bonaire and Grand Cayman. Gold Star Teen Adventures has shaped me into the young adult I am today, and I do not know where I would be without their influence. Through their mentorship, leadership training, and encouragement to live beyond my comfort zone, I have grown so much, and I now mentor other teens who are in the same situation I was a few years ago. I am proud to be able to serve and give back to an organization that has given me so much.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a teen that participates in these adventures and my experience with GSTA has been nothing but amazing, I try to go to as many camps as I can. I love the kindness, generosity, and friendships. GSTA is not a foundation, it is a family build on tight bonds.

holly w

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son loves Gold Star Teen Adventures, as do I!

We lost his father during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s not been easy growing up without a father or male role model.

When we found GSTA last year I was over joyed at the opportunities this organization provides to our children. My son Tyler absolutely loves every adventure he’s been able to go on throughout the year and we can’t thank you enough!

Everyone involved from the volunteers,mentors, donors, sponsors and supporters are so wonderful. You all have had a very positive influence in our lives.

Thank you! ❤️

1 Kelly E.2

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My children love GSTA, they did not want to leave. They love GSTA better than TAPS and found a second home and friends. Really blessed to have them part of our families. Thank you to GSTA

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

GSTA is the most impactful organization I have ever been involved with. They give so many opportunities to Children of the Fallen to experience different parts of the world through meaningful activities and useful skills. Whether it’s through backpacking, scuba diving, or rock climbing, the teens are definitely challenged and motivated by GSTA to be great people and future leaders.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I grew up as a Gold Star Teen and found out about GSTA through other Gold Star Teens I grew up with and through some of my peers at the Naval Academy. I am super grateful that GSTA has welcomed me into the family as a mentor. They brought me on board the team when I was a plebe, and I have been on trips with the teens all over the world from North Carolina to Kauai to Belize over the past three years. The relationships I have built extend far beyond the amazing adventures that go on throughout the year. I'm truly blessed to be apart of this family that I know will be with me for life.

-Chris Bianchi

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Wonderful Organization. Beautiful people. True Patriots helping those in need in the great Spirit of The United States of America,

God Bless.
Rob Matticola
Homeland Security Director
NYW-Ferry

1 Stacy M.1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This organization provides the BEST experiences for our Gold Star families! I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend an adventure and the smiles on faces of these kids was priceless! The organizers and mentors go out of their way to provide support in any way needed. It’s tragic that these services are needed, but so thankful they are available! Keep up the awesome work GSTA!

Previous Stories
1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I’ve had the great privilege of seeing this organization in action and interacting with some of the teens involved. This is an outstanding organization that affords these gold star kids some amazing opportunities! The founders, volunteers and mentors go above and beyond. You can see the joy they bring on the faces of the kids that have endured such heart ache. THANK YOU GSTA!

2 Tricia Fernandez Tarlavsky K.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Joey was 10 months old when his dad was killed in action. He never had the chance to witness his dad’s thirst for adventure, or his love of scuba, hiking and camping. Gold Star Teen Adventures has recognized the importance of providing opportunities for teens like Joey to explore the world that their dad would have shown them if he could. Joey has traveled with GSTA to Belize for Advanced Scuba Certification and Outdoor Leadership Course, Florida for Wreck Diving, North Carolina to deer hunt and train with special forces. He will travel this Summer to Bonaire for Rescue Diver and back to North Carolina to compete in an Amazing Race like competition. Hands down, GSTA is Joey’s favorite group of people and the highlight of his year.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Gold Star Teen Adventures is more than a program it is an investment. An investment into the lives of Gold Star Teens. This organization stays actively involved in a teen's life and the program is structured to bring the teen back year after year to progress in skills and in turn in the relationships they build both with peers and mentors. GSTA is like no other program I have ever witnessed. It is certainly not a grief camp, but rather a opportunity for teens to honor their fallen loved one by meeting their potential and surpassing their fears and overcoming challenges through experiences not often had by others.

3

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been involved with GSTA for over 4 years and it has been truly life changing. I am honored and humbled to be associated with this family. I travel throughout the year with the teens and host the "Fall Whitetail Deer Hunt." Providing fun, challenging and educational adventures for these kids that have sacrificed so much is the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced. We focus on opportunity, not loss, by engaging the teens in fun, safe activities and life experiences that they will never forget. THIS IS AN AMAZING ORGANIZATION that consistently delivers on it's mission to enable healing, foster enduring relationships and to develop character and leadership skills through adventure experiences. I am truly blessed to be a donor, sponsor, volunteer and board member. GSTA is truly a GREAT NONPROFIT !!!

2 Alex V.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a mentor for GSTA, it was a life changing experience for me. I was able to push myself and my team beyond what I thought possible. The kids, program, and fellow mentors are incredibly compassionate, enthusiastic, and promote and experience that these kids will never forget. I will be involved with GSTA for life.
-Alex Vandenberg, US Naval Academy Class of '19

2

Donor

Rating: 5

I became a part of Gold Star Teen Adventures as a result of a high school classmate not making it home from Afghanistan. When I met with his wife and two children 4 years later I instantly thought about who takes these children to do dad stuff. The answer I would soon find out was Gold Star. As Jessica told me about the organization I was instantly drawn to them. I've spent the last 15 months working to raise money in a variety of ways. Success in my mind is measured by impact. The impact in this case is the fellowship between children that have gone through similar losses. The hurt, the emptiness and all of the emotions of losing your parent to war is explored together. There is great power in knowing someone that is dealing with something similar to you. The healing that takes place within Gold Star is real and thus the positive impact is what I'm signing up to be a part of. The founders Kent and Trina Solheim will leave you speechless with their drive and commitment to ensure the healing of the children.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I just got involved with GSTA as a mentor for the first time this past summer and was immediately blown away. The leadership of this organization is extremely committed to the teens and offers them tremendous opportunities for adventures such as scuba diving, hunting, and outdoor survival skills. The teens also develop close bonds with each other as well as with the mentors. I can't wait to continue working with GSTA in the future!

Austin A.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been apart of Gold Star Teen Adventure for about 5 years now. Ranging from Outdoor Survival Camps, to Scuba Diving, G.S.T.A has expanded my range of experiences and has also taught me lessons I'll be able to carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank You G.S.T.A for everything you have done!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Scuba diving, hiking, swimming with dolphins, windsurfing, completing a rugged maniac race, learning how to build a fire, competitions, etc..the list of opportunities goes on and on. Gold Star Teen Adventures is a unique non-profit organization that offers experiences like no other. I have been fortunate enough to attend several adventures to assist with logistics and planning, as well as mentor, and the interactions I have had were, and continue to be many of the most memorable moments in my life. Relationships between the teens and mentors last longer than the duration of the trip and the excitement for each adventure never dwindles. These adventures offer healing through exciting opportunties that facilitate leadership skills, foster self confidence, and lead to endless days and nights of laughter and fun. The thought and planning that goes into these adventures and the execution of them is absolutely amazing. What an awesome non-profit organization!!!

Brigid D.1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

GSTA is an amazing organization! Had the honor to see GSTA in action. This organization is just what these Gold Star Teens need. The founders and mentors give 110% in everything they do! Truly Amazing!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a mentor for GSTA for the past two years and the work that they do is outstanding. While it is incredible to see the confidence the teens build throughout the week-long adventures, it is even more remarkable to see the same teens come back year after year and have the ability to become leaders within the organization. GSTA is committed to long-term success for those that it serves and the teen-mentor relationships continue informally throughout the year. The GSTA family is developing leaders for the next generation that have enormous potential for a positive impact.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Gold Star Teen Adventures for the past three years. During this time I have participated in nine GSTA adventures. As a mentor on the adventures I have worked closely with the teens and also the leadership of this organization--- both are incredibly impressive. I have seen the tremendous growth that occurs during the adventures for the teens, especially as they return year after year. On the trips the teens learn valuable leadership and outdoor skills that will serve them well beyond their teenage years.
The trips are highly organized and incredibly well planned. The focus is always 100% on serving the teens and making each adventure the "best week ever" for each Gold Star teen.

sofsupporter

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Awesome, program! I am continually impressed with GSTA and their commitment to the mission and those that they serve. As a professional working with another nonprofit serving the gold star and special operations community, I know many teens that have participated in GSTA's programs. There is no endorsement greater than that of those who have participated, and I have never heard anything but the best about GSTA.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

What a great program, what GSTA is doing is incredible! I hope more people get on board and help support this great cause!

dbwinters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

We had the honor to do an event called Operation Blackbeard with Gold Star Teen Adventures. Wonderful mission and great team!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

I love and am continually impressed with Gold Star Teen Adventures! What they do is so needed and the staff, as well as those served, care so much about the mission. I had the opportunity to see two retreats in action and was both amazed and touched at all that went into making it a success. What they have created is a family and and a network of mentors, youth served, and staff. All of their trips are extremely fun and teach youth skills they will have for the rest of their lives. I vet NGOs often and I can tell you that I will definitely continue to support Gold Star Teen Adventures and highly recommend them to others as a worthy cause where your donations are well spent.