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Daytonian of the Week: Tom Helbig, founder of Tomfoolery Outdoors

As of this morning, Tom Helbig is cruising on his bicycle through reportedly, 68 degree and sunny Portland, Maine, en route to Canada, craving a Dayton craft beer and some Taqueria Mixteca. 

His East Coast cycling trip began in February in Key West, Florida and will wrap at the end of June when he returns to Dayton to resume organizing and planning Tomfoolery Outdoors adventures — the Dayton business Helbig founded in May 2014 based on the principles of his life’s mantra, “Live Active, Laugh More, Inspire All.” 

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Helbig’s childhood was spent camping near his home in the Cleveland area, boating on Lake Erie, trips to Ohio state parks and making cherished memories outdoors with his family. The Bowling Green State University grad moved to Dayton in 1998 and after nine years of dedicated work with the Special Olympics of Miami County, got heavily involved with FiveRivers MetroParks in 2007 as an outdoor program event planner.

(Tom Helbig)

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“I took my experiences between those two jobs and my own personal interests and thought I could start my own company, put my own spin on it and also allow more time for adventures,” Helbig said.

The realization that he could make his enthusiasm for adventures a lifestyle didn’t come without sacrifice. Through careful planning and living simply, Helbig has been able to run a successful outdoors events company and inspire people in Dayton to jump into adventures they thought were unrealistic — all while fitting in personal, month-long adventures throughout the year. “It’s (Tomfoolery Outdoors) a community of people who want to make the world a better place and play outside,” Helbig said. 

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“I had this epiphany that I was having conversations with friends about event ideas, T-shirt concepts, maybe guided trips that I could offer and I thought well, I’m doing a lot of talking ... and I decided I wanted to take those campfire discussions and turn them into action,” Helbig said.

Get to know Tom Helbig, our Daytonian of the Week:

(Tom Helbig)

How do you make this lifestyle possible? 

“All my adventures are human powered. I find free places to camp, people host me in their homes, I partner with certain organizations along the way. It’s just being creative, living simply, not caring about glamorous material things and using the income I do bring in from Tomfoolery Outdoors events.”

Do you think Dayton has a big taste for adventure?

“When I moved to the Dayton area in 1998, at that time, being honest, I was not excited about moving. Then things started to change. I got involved with the outdoor amenities that were available, a guy took me fly fishing, then I started spending time on our rivers paddling and fishing, exploring the bike trails. I just really started to become part of the community, and I was loving it. 

Loving it to the point now where, even though I’m off on some of these longer adventures, I’m one of the biggest advocates for what Dayton has to offer. I’m really proud to say when I’m on my adventures, that I’m from Dayton, Ohio.”

Do you think some people hesitate before setting off on an adventure?

“I actually hear that a lot and it makes me sad when I hear somebody that isn’t pursuing something that they always wanted to do ... ‘Oh I wish I could do x, y and z,’ — that’s troubling to me and when I hear those things I start to ask a lot of questions of, Well, why not?’ And you’ll hear excuse after excuse of why they haven't pursued something that would make their life that much better. I ask a lot of questions that hopefully stimulate some thought and even offer some suggestions as to how they can do it. Then, if I’m able to stay in touch with those people, I’m going to be their biggest cheerleader. I’m going to hold them accountable and try and get them to do those things they’ve always wanted to do.”

(Tom Helbig)

“Live Active, Laugh More, Inspire All.” Why is that Tomfoolery Outdoor’s mission statement?

“In my mid-30s, so right before I started Tomfoolery Outdoor’s, I was feeling really out of balance with my work and life. Just spending too many hours at work behind a desk, and I just felt a need for something different and better. So I thought, OK, how am I going to live the rest of my life. I boiled it down to those three principles, how I wanted to guide the rest of my life ... Over about a six-month process, that led me to founding Tom Foolery Outdoors. So that is not a marketing slogan. It’s how I live my life and I want the company to behave in our community. 

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What are some of your favorite Dayton spots for day-trip outdoor adventures? 

“For favorite spots in the Dayton-area for a hike, you can’t beat the Twin Valley Trail over in Germantown. I love to fly fish on the Great Miami River, mountain biking at MoMBA or John Bryan State Park and paddling on any of the local rivers.”

(Tom Helbig)

What is your favorite place to eat in Dayton?

“I love going to the 2nd Street Market, Fusian, Arepas, Mudlick Tap House, Taqueria Mixteca and Trolley Stop. I am excited to be back in Dayton, I’ve been gone for three months now, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends and when I get back, I’ll be in the heart of my Tomfoolery Outdoors events season. And one of the things I’m going to focus on when I return from this journey is, I want to make sure that my lifestyle and brand is more than just long adventures. Those adventures are getting people’s attention, which is awesome and I’m very grateful for that. But within that, I want people to get the message that you can get adventure in your daily life by appreciating those things we have right here locally.”

For all the details on this season’s Tomfoolery Outdoors adventures and the charities involved with each event, visit tomfooleryoutdoors.com.

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