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Local survivalist turns to crowdfunding

‘Naked & Afraid’ star hopes to bring survival school to Grand Rapids.

July 31, 2015
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Survival Guy
Luke McLaughlin, who appears on â??Naked & Afraid XL,â?? plans to start a survival school in Grand Rapids.

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Grand Rapids resident Luke McLaughlin currently can be seen on the Discovery Channel’s series “Naked & Afraid XL,” trying to survive naked in a remote Colombian jungle with a group of 11 other people over the course of 40 days.

This is his second time taking part in a Discovery Channel reality show. He also participated in Season 3 of “Naked & Afraid” last year, where he had to survive for 21 days with a partner in Namibia, South Africa.

McLaughlin, who grew up in Mason, Mich., said he has always enjoyed the outdoors and felt a strong connection to nature, but it was his time working as a wilderness field guide for an at-risk youth program in Utah where he learned many of the primitive skills that allowed him to take that connection further.

“They would come live in the wilderness for eight to 14 weeks,” he said of the kids in the program. “Basically, my job was to keep them alive and teach them primitive skills. Each primitive skill had a lesson that goes with it.”

The youth, many of whom struggled with drug addiction, sexual assault trauma or depression, also received professional therapy while in the program.

“I saw how powerful nature was in helping people heal,” McLaughlin said.

After participating on the reality television shows, McLaughlin moved back to Michigan — he now resides in Grand Rapids — and has decided to take what he has learned and share it with others.

He is in the midst of trying to launch the Holistic Survival School in the Grand Rapids area.

McLaughlin said while most people won’t find themselves stranded in the wilderness and forced to try to survive, many people could benefit from learning primitive skills and reconnecting with nature.

“More and more research is coming out showing how important it is to have a nature connection in your life,” he said. “Nature and all these skills are a great tool to help us understand ourselves and our interaction with others.”

McLaughlin plans to have the Holistic Survival School up and running soon, and hopes to offer its first programs in August or September.

Initially, he will offer an array of classes teaching various basic survival skills, such as making a fire, plant identification, water purification, basic shelter and other “Nature 101-type” skills.

“(The classes are) basic intro classes that can be taught over a weekend,” McLaughlin said. “No one is naked; everyone has a tent and can bring anything they want.”

The initial weekend classes will cost approximately $200 to $250 for an adult and $100 for children; attendees will need to bring their own camping equipment for overnight programs.

As the Holistic Survival School grows, additional classes will be added and might expand beyond basic survival lessons to include intermediate and advanced classes.

McLaughlin is in the process of obtaining funding for the school through a $100,000 Indiegogo campaign:

The money raised will go toward purchasing a permanent home for the school.

“Right now, we don’t have a permanent location,” he said.

The upcoming programs will take place on property that McLaughlin has been granted access to use, but the hope is to be able to buy property specifically for the school.

McLaughlin said the Holistic Survival School will offer classes for all ages, and he said many of the classes will include children and adults learning together. He said it’s a great learning experience for children to see how a parent overcomes a challenge and learns something new.

He also encourages groups, including office teams, to participate in the programs. In fact, he said a university in the area has already contacted him about doing a team-building program.

McLaughlin said he could have chosen anywhere in the country to start his school, but he was excited to come back to Michigan, and particularly to Grand Rapids.

He noted the area’s natural resources offer an excellent fit for learning primitive skills and communing with nature.

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