Don't let this be your greatest adventure : extraordinary experiences and personal transformation
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Sport providers should be concerned with the participant experience, and in particular extraordinary experiences, as they have the potential to shift participant behaviors and attitudes to those desired by sport organizations. Extraordinary experiences are characterized by interpersonal interactions, separation from the usual, and feelings of self-transformation or personal growth (Arnould & Price, 1993). Due to the power, intensity, and transformative effects of these experiences, they can generate lasting shifts in beliefs and attitudes (Schouten, McAlexander & Koenig, 2007). This research project examined the relationship between the extraordinary experience and the personal transformation by examining the characteristics of the experience and impacts on participants. Texas 4000 is a community of cancer fighters who “train, fundraise, educate, and bring hope to those with cancer” for one year before their experience culminates with a 4,000 mile bike ride. University students apply to participate, and once accepted they begin planning, fundraising, volunteering and training for their ride to Alaska. Along the ride, they interact with members of the communities they pass through to spread “hope, knowledge, and charity.” Over 400 individuals have completed the ride within the last ten years. For this study, alumni participated in in-depth interviews about their experience and how it impacted their life. Participant impacts included feelings of empowerment, new perspectives and appreciations, a sense of meaning and purpose, and strong relationships that resulted in a sense of community with other riders, the organization, and the larger cancer community. Importantly, participants’ history and backgrounds influenced how participants interacted with the community and the impacts that they felt. Additionally, the extraordinary experience of the ride created enduring change in participants; the preparation for the extraordinary experience was not as impactful and merely allowed participants to develop the necessary skills to participate in the summer ride.