The Whale Foundation was created in honor of Curtis "Whale" Hansen to provide confidential access to mental and physical health care professionals and a network of support services designed to restore, promote, and celebrate the well-being of the Grand Canyon River Guiding Community.
Guides are like everyone else, but different. Lots of folks face challenges in their family lives, but guides have to address theirs in the few days' break between long stints away from home. Many people think about changing careers, but it's a bit more difficult when your part-time employment keeps you out of society for five or six months. There are bankers, doctors and teachers who get to a point in their lives when they decide to address their habits around alcohol use. Guides who make that decision are leading everyone else's vacation for an entire summer, participating time and again in what for so many is their peak life experience, and one seemingly deserving of a spirituous celebration, nightly.
Add to this the crashing loss of camaraderie, purposefulness, and accomplishment that comes from ushering wide-eyed folks through the sublime landscape of Grand Canyon when, at the end of a season, friends and co-workers disperse to all corners of the country to make their way through the fallow off-season. It can be desperately quiet and an overwhelming adjustment to return to "the real world." Annually, guides face the listlessness of seasonal retirement, and that's a real challenge to contend with for some, as it's often faced very nearly alone.
The loss of Whale Hansen underlined the struggles of seasonal employment and the lifestyle of commercial guiding. And although Whale additionally fought with the ghosts brought home from war, the very real difficulties he faced in his career are still present today.
What the founders of the Whale Foundation have insured, for over 20 years now, is that never again will a guide feel alone or have nowhere to turn when he or she is ready to ask for assistance in facing these trials head on.