#HomeGrownStories – Tom Helbig
Tomfoolery Outdoors has a mission to encourage people to live an active outdoor lifestyle while making a difference in the world. The company’s founder, Tom Helbig, an outdoor adventure enthusiast, has just returned to Ohio from a 5-week adventure in the Great Exumas region of the Bahamas. This tropical excursion was spent on stand up paddleboards and had Tom and his group camping outside for 34 of the 35 nights spent on the most crystal clear water Tom has ever seen. Tom was interviewed for our #HomeGrownStories campaign before he sets off on his next adventure following the blue blazes of the Buckeye Trail in Ohio.
On living in Miami County:
I live in a camper full-time at Adventures on the Great Miami in Tipp City. I have lived in Miami County on and off since 1998. I’m originally from the Cleveland area. My post-college career is what brought me to Miami County where I worked as the Special Olympics Coordinator at Riverside in Troy. After working at Riverside I worked at Five Rivers MetroParks for seven years as the special events and development coordinator. I’ve lived north of Dayton, primarily in Miami County since moving to Tipp City in 1998.
On starting his own business, Tomfoolery Outdoors:
I loved all of my previous jobs, they were very rewarding and had a great impact on the community, but I was spending a lot of hours working especially in the evenings and weekends. My work life balance was not in balance. I did not get to spend much time outdoors. I was approaching 40; I’m not going to call it a mid-life crisis, but I started to reflect on my life. I realized I didn’t want to spend my life behind a desk. I had always kind of had an entrepreneurial spirit and I had a lot of ideas for teaching people some of the skills I knew. I left my job at Five Rivers MetroParks and started Tomfoolery Outdoors in May 2014. May 3rd this year is my 3-year anniversary.
On the community response to Tomfoolery Outdoors:
It’s been really positive in the first 3 years now. I’ve promoted a really playful, fun, whimsical lifestyle, a lot of my events have a quirky nature to them and I think people are drawn to that. A lot of people crave that quirkiness. I am who I am and I’m an adventurous spirit. That energy lives within my company and people have embraced it.
Why he loves Miami County:
I love the people number one. There are a lot of just down to earth, kind and very supportive people in the area. From an outdoor and natural standpoint, I enjoy that we have bikeways and rivers to paddle and hiking trails in the Miami County Parks. It’s a very good area for someone that likes the outdoors like myself.
There’s a big community focus in Miami County. When I worked for the Special Olympics the community really supported the program. I got to know the athlete’s families. I saw members of the program graduate from high school and go on their first dates and ski down a mountain for the first time. There’s this amazing community-family feel of Miami County. Now, as a small business owner in Miami County, I take a lot of pride in my foundation of my business that it started in Miami County.
How is Miami County different from places he has visited:
The outdoor recreation opportunities are really strong which is very unique. I think sometimes we take for granted what we have in our community: the bike path, the recreational trails, and the parks. I really like the small towns in Miami County; Troy, Piqua, Tipp City. I enjoy that corridor in Miami County. It’s fun to go somewhere where you know people. It’s a like a family, we’re-all-in-it together type of attitude.
His favorite Miami County event and spots:
Canoe Grass is my favorite event. I think it’s the best event, even though I might be biased. We put a stage on the Great Miami River and everyone hangs out in the water. We have bluegrass and Americana bands on stage and it feels like you’re hanging out with 400 of your best friends on the river.
Tom is heading to Cleveland today (March 16, 2017) to start a 1,400-mile hike around Ohio on the Buckeye Trail. You can follow his journey on the Facebook group Tomfoolery Follows the Blue Blazes.
Follow our storyteller and interviewer, Courtney Denning, at ThisOhioLife.com.