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Hometown boy continues to make contribution
hoi kl skip yowell

With a thirst for life and adventure, hometown boy Skip Yowell is still excited to see what’s around the corner and still figuratively looking for mountains to climb.

And Kansas is still a home of his heart even though he has travelled the world wide, including the tallest places on earth such as Mt. Everett.

"A lot of people don’t see the beauty," of Kansas, Yowell said. "It is so uniquely different in a neat way."

He enjoys the intense thunderstorms, and the large amount of wildlife including hawks, pheasants, turkeys and rattlesnakes. He has recently purchased a home in St. Peter.

"My Mom and Dad loved the outdoors," said Yowell. "Every weekend we would camp, fish and water ski. In the winter, we’d go to Bissell’s Point and go sledding."

Still striving to make a difference and having fun doing it, Yowell recently was in Great Bend at the 1st Annual Wetlands Education Day sponsored by the Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms. He is a board member of the group.

Yowell was born in Grainfield near Hays, and moved to Great Bend at a young age. He attended Park School, Roosevelt Junior High and Great Bend High School. About the best job Yowell says he ever had was being a lifeguard at Lake Barton because he got to water ski.

Not wanting to get a real job after school, Yowell moved from Kansas to Seattle and started a company with his cousin Murray and friend Jan called JanSport making backpacks. One of the first items they made in the late sixties was a day pack or what is now commonly called a book bag. The pack caught on, and virtually every student in the country now carries one.

While on a winter ski trip in the early 70s, Yowell had difficulty setting up his A frame tent due to the winds. "We wanted to make a tent for ourselves like the Eskimos," he said.

Never afraid to think outside the knapsack, they engineered the modern dome tent. The rest is history and JanSport is now a world-wide company, Yowell still works and travels extensively as the vice-president of global public relations.

While in school in Great Bend, Yowell was asked to coach a Little League team and it turned into a life-changing activity. "It was a very rewarding experience," Yowell said. "I saw how you could make a difference with kids."

Since that time, Yowell has continued to give back. "It’s the right thing. I’ve been very fortunate, very lucky and gained a lot of different experiences," Yowell said. "I feel good about sharing that experience."

Actively involved with Big City Mountaineers, which serves under-resourced urban teens, Yowell believes in getting involved.

He recently took a group of five kids from Chicago who had never spent time in the outdoors on an eight day trip of the boundary waters which included 45 miles and 30 portages. "So many things evolved," he said.

Yowell has two brothers and two sisters, His wife Winnie is also from Great Bend. They now live in California.