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 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

Skychasers-Combining Adventure Trekking with Meaningful Opportunities: Combining Adventure Trekking with Meaningful Opportunities

Aug 01, 2015 12:14AM ● By Gisele Siebold

Jerry meeting old friends at Gokyo Village

Jerry Lapp, owner of Skychasers—a local adventure and travel company—is a Lancaster native with a deep connection to Nepal. He first visited as a tourist and trekker in 1999 with his girlfriend, Mary Ellen Francescani. Deeply touched and inspired by the culture and people of Nepal, and the surrounding Himalaya, they decided to marry in Nepal, obtained jobs and resided there for five years.

After moving back to Lancaster, Lapp stayed home to take care of their children. Reminiscing about time spent in Nepal, he wanted to reconnect with Nepali people. Fortuitously, a few years later, Bhutanese/Nepali refugees began to resettle in Lancaster by the hundreds. With a goal of wanting to give back, Lapp volunteered extensively with his new Nepali neighbors, helping them transition. He translated at doctor’s appointments and in emergency rooms, fixed toilets, taught many Nepalis how to ride bicycles and held Nepali dance parties at his home. Currently, over 1,000 Bhutanese/Nepali refugees reside in Lancaster, and nearly all of them know and love Lapp—whom they call Jerry-dai, a term of endearment that means older brother.

This past May, within 24 hours of the devastating Nepal earthquake, Lapp and Francescani, along with Joe Devoy—owner of Tellus360—and a number of other dedicated locals, formed Lancaster~Nepal, and raised over $35,000 through a massive fundraiser at Tellus360, as well as a GoFundMe site. Funds were divided amongst Rasuwa Relief, Shikshya Foundation, We Help Nepal and the Mennonite Central Committee.

Skychasers is committed to helping Nepal rebuild its mountain villages and infrastructure, and offers insider tours to Nepal and the Himalayan regions. The next adventure, taking place in October, will be a nonprofit Rebuilding Trek, giving participants the chance to help Nepal rebuild and experience the Himalaya. ​

A typical trek begins with a short stay in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. A flight out of Katmandu and into the mountains follows, where accommodations at a local lodge await. A knowledgeable, Nepali guide leads the group, and hearty meals and tea breaks are provided along the way at family-owned lodges. Adventurers trek for a total of six to eight miles a day.

“My personal pledge to the people of Nepal is to continue escorting trekkers to the High Himalaya—charity through capitalism,” shares Lapp. “In addition, I’m zeroing in on meaningful relief opportunities that can be woven into an adventure tour. I’ve been living in or traveling to the Nepal Himalaya for the past 16 years, and over time it’s become a major life-giving force for me. Every visit gives me renewed energy, confidence in myself and humanity, clarity of mind, and a focus on the things that are truly important in life. One day on trek can instantly reorder priorities to where they should be.”

For more information, call 717-682-5265, email [email protected] or visit

Gisele Siebold is a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at [email protected]

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