Bear River Young Life building gets new mural, pays tribute to former member and leader |

Bear River Young Life building gets new mural, pays tribute to former member and leader

Darian Warden
Ryan Otis stands in front of the mural he painted over Labor Day Weekend on the Bear River Young Life Building. A tribute, the mural is based on the photo Otis holds of 25-year-old Jason Kawcak, a Young Life member and leader who died last July in an accident at work.
Joe Moylan


Click here to see a time-lapse video of the mural's creation. (Video courtesy of David Pressgrove)

Sporadic green circles and handprints are what used to cover the Bear River Young Life building in Craig.

But that was before Labor Day Weekend, when it received a facelift in the form of a mural, paying tribute to one of the groups leaders.

The mural is a depiction of a photo of Jason Kawcak, who died last July in an accident at his work, ColoWyo Coal Company.

Kawcak was an active member of Bear River Young Life throughout high school, and a leader in the middle school WyldLife program after graduating and returning from the marines.

David Pressgrove, area director for the group, said he feels the picture is Kawcak embracing life to the fullest.

Tane Otis, a member of the middle school branch, WyldLife, had the idea to have her father, Ryan Otis, donate his time and skills to paint the mural last spring, but after being discussed the idea never came to fruition.

Pressgrove said the original mural was going to be a collection of pictures gathered over the years, but the mural suddenly took on new meaning with Kawcak’s passing.

The photo of Kawcak, standing at the top of a mountain after a backpacking trip with the program his senior year of high school, embodied what Pressgrove said was the type of guy Jason was.

“He embraced life. He grabbed the bull by the horns and was involved with as much stuff as he could be,” Pressgrove said.

The photo also represents what Pressgrove said is Young Life’s focus.

“A big verse, a lot of what we talk about is John 10:10,” Pressgrove said. “In the second half of that verse, Jesus explains, ‘I have come so that they may have life to the full,’ or life abundantly. One translation says life beyond your wildest dreams.”

Pressgrove said part of what young life is, and why it was started was the idea that kids are under so much pressure, and don’t have a chance to just be kids and experience youthfulness.

Pressgrove said Kawcak helped others embrace life too. After Pressgrove tried to get Otis to go to camp this past summer, she said she just couldn’t afford it.

“Jason heard the conversation and said, ‘What if I gave you a partial scholarship? Could you go?’ Tane said sure and Jason came back next week with a check,” Pressgrove said.

Ryan Otis, who painted the mural, said he split the project into two days, taking about nine to ten hours total. Otis has murals all over town, including some at City Park.

Dave DeRose and Jim Duran, who own the building, allow Young Life to use the building free of charge.

“The mural is one small step in slowly making it ours, even though it’s not ours,” laughed Pressgrove.

Young Life meets at 8 p.m. on Mondays in the building at 456 Russell St., and WyldLife meets at 7 p.m. Tuesdays in the building.

Darian can be reached at 875-1793 or

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