Canyon Scholars – Support A Child

    CANYON SCHOLARS  Blazing a Trail!

               An Amazing Bethel Lutheran Story


Mission:  To provide educational scholarships to youth in 40 Mexican Indian villages, equipping 100’s of college graduates to return, uplift and develop their communities.

Vision:  To see the greatest runners on the planet stabilize a drug-torn region and become world-famous community leaders!

 The Remarkable Story of Canyon Scholars

How Near Deaths Spawned a Mission. In July of 2000, Canyon Scholars founder and Bethel members Ren Svanoe and his wife Grace nearly lost their lives in the Canadian wilderness. At nightfall one day, while they sought a camping site, their canoe and supplies blew downstream and out of sight. They were stranded without food, water or means of travel for 8 days, tending a fire round-the-clock to avoid hypothermia.

During those days they realized what it must feel like to be lost and alone in this world,
powerless, entirely dependent on the mercy and help of those who might notice, those with
access to transportation, food, water, a warm bed, and education. And they promised God, if
He’d save their lives, they’d give their remaining days to uplifting others in poverty.

That’s how Canyon Scholars began, when a search party finally found them, soot-covered and delirious. Twenty-two years later, looking at the beautiful pipeline of compassion they’ve built of youth scholarships from America to Mexico, most would agree, they’ve kept their promise.

A Promise Kept.  More than 130 Americans have now provided 700 indigenous Tarahumara youth from dirt-poor villages at least one year of education. 110 students have graduated from college, and 86 more are right behind them!

How did we choose the Tarahumara? On a Habitat for Humanity trip fixing homes in Mexico, Ren heard about the plight of Mexican Indian youth whose mothers he saw begging on the streets. Inquiring about that, he heard the following even more remarkable story.

Who Are the Fascinating Tarahumara Indians?  

 The Tarahumara are an ancient culture of 80,000 Native Americans who live along one of the most dangerous drug-cartel routes in the world, in the northernmost state in Mexico, southwest of El Paso, Texas. Most reside in the Copper Canyon, along the western edge of Mexico, which, amazingly, is 3 times deeper and wider than our Grand Canyon!

The Tarahumara are internationally known for being the greatest endurance runners in the world! Each year they host 20 ultra-marathoners from 20 countries who challenge them in a run-until-you-drop race on their mountain paths in their great state of Chihuahua. They run barefoot or in rubber-tire sandals, which created the fad of barefoot running in the U.S., and they endure more than 100 miles, which is why they win almost every year! (See the YouTube story Goshen.)

Reigns of Terror in Mexico. Yet sadly, this superhuman talent was acquired during an oppressive 400 years when they’ve had to outrun their foes during successive reigns of terror:  First, Spanish colonizers evangelizing, and then, mountain-mining corporations stealing the Canyon’s gold and silver — precious metals that should have made the Tarahumara rich!

More recently, logging companies have stolen the land at will, eliminating 200 native plants the Tarahumara used for edible and medicinal purposes. Finally, pot-growing drug cartels convert their lands to plant, harvest, and export marijuana to American markets.

So the Tarahumara have had to run to survive, withdrawing deep into the Canyon where there are no roads for their captors to follow, some still living as nomads or in mountain caves.

How Can You Help?  If your heart races with optimism, like a Tarahumura runner, reading about the wonderful work described above, we ask you to join us in one of 4 ways:


You can literally change history, positively help prevent the problem of immigration, and begin a cross-cultural relationship that could last a lifetime. See the attached Sign Up Sheet. Remarkably, only $43 a month gets a student through a year of high school, and only $63 a month buys a year of college. We have 100 student applications waiting!

NOTE: One of the harsh realities of a mission started by a pioneer now 85-year-old is that many of our most loyal first sponsors of 5 to 10 students each are now 85-90 years old themselves, and making their last donations. So we ask you to THINK BIG and pray about whether you could adopt multiple students.

The payback will be so rewarding! You are welcome to correspond with and hear back from your children, and we can even try to coordinate a Zoom call and translator. We are also offering a beautiful thank you gift to any new sponsor, both so you are reminded to pray for the students, and as a great conversation piece to spread the word about Canyon Scholars.


Canyon Scholars has been an extremely lean organization over the years since Ren and colleagues ran it in their retirement on volunteer time. Directors on both sides of the border receive stipends for their work; a website needs to be built; a social media campaign run to reach younger sponsors, etc.

Convinced of the repeated dividends this mission, sponsors ask us, “How can we help the most?” That would be to commit to monthly funding of our operations budget. You can do so through CashApp or Zelle (available at the 30 largest American banks). If you join our loyal supporters to build the Next Generation, we will invite you to periodic Zoom-meeting progress reports, with regular success stories, telling how young adults are remaking their worlds!


Join this exciting kindness conspiracy as we help prevent poverty and immigration, rather than criticize it. Most of our families have adopted a child. How about you and yours? Most are grateful for the opportunity!

  • Subscribe and Follow Us on Facebook so you receive every uplifting story of change.
  • “Share” those stories, and helpful educational news, with your Facebook friends and family
  • Invite 3-12 friends or family for a Zoom Visit we will host to hear more about Canyon Scholars.


In the coming months you’ll hear about our Special Projects, as our partners plan to start technical training internships, build a boarding school, provide clean water filtration and build reservoirs on volunteer trips to the Canyon, etc. Let us know the people of influence in your circle; church or service clubs to speak to; or good people to add to our Boards of Directors and Advisors.  We can give business partners great PR!

Letter from Todd Svanoe

Support Canyon Scholars


For more information, contact Todd Svanoe, U.S. Director of Donor Relations at 414-204-4768, or sign up for News Updates at My mug attached if possible.