REI continues its pledge to get more younger people, and a greater diversity in touch with nature. On Earth Day, REI Foundation announced that a total of $410,000 would be awarded the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), Futuro Media Group, Outdoor Foundation and YMCA of the USA.
“The REI Foundation’s mission is to better connect the next generation of adventurers and environmental stewards with the outdoors by partnering with key organizations,” said Marc Berejka, president of The REI Foundation and REI’s director of government and community affairs. “It is our honor to support each of these programs. They recognize and promote the benefits of nature among diverse audiences, and empower youth with important outdoor leadership skills.”
As our research shows in our latest Spring Youth Culture Study 2014, sports and the outdoors are important to today’s youth marketplace, but participation numbers in various categories are dropping based on a variety of reasons. Grants like the REI Foundation obviously helps, but the outdoor industry is in the midst of significant change.
A $200,000 grant from The REI Foundation will expand the reach of C&NN’s Natural Leaders Network, a program for young leaders aged 18 to 29 who are working locally to design and promote nature-based experiences. The funding will support training and online engagement for Natural Leaders and enable a new “Green Play to Green Pay” initiative to create a pathway to outdoor jobs for diverse millennials. By 2015, the Natural Leaders Network will have a presence in 60 new communities, expanding its total community network to 150.
“This program empowers young people to serve as change-makers in their local community in the fields of outdoor recreation and conservation, giving them the tools they need to become leaders not for tomorrow, but for today,” said Juan Martinez, director of the Natural Leaders Network. “The REI Foundation’s support of the Natural Leaders Network highlights REI’s leadership and commitment to helping us ensure a vibrant future of Nature-Smart leaders.”
“RadioNature” is a popular series on LatinoUSA, NPR’s only weekly national Latino radio news and culture program. Executive produced and hosted by award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, Latino USA is distributed by the Futuro Media Group, a nonprofit media company based in Harlem, New York. “RadioNature” is supported by The REI Foundation through a $110,000 grant. Now in its third year, the series documents the powerful and emotional bonds that diverse communities have with nature and is aimed at inspiring more outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards. The 2014 grant will fund in-depth stories highlighting the intersection between outdoor activities and the environmental impacts of pursuing them, from the perspective of Latinos. In addition, funding will help expand the segments’ reach through targeted outreach and audience building.
The REI Foundation continues its longstanding support of the Outdoor Foundation through a $50,000 grant to help fund leadership development for high school and college-age people at the Outdoor Nation. The program ensures that America’s next generation of leaders have the skills, training and resources to connect their peers to the outdoors and drive participation. To date, Outdoor Nation, co-founded by REI, has hosted 30 youth summits and invested in more than 250 youth-led projects that reached 25,000 young people. In addition, its Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge program helps collegiate leaders drive outdoor participation on campuses and in local communities.
A $50,000 grant to YMCA of the USA’s Boys and Girls Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD/GOLD) program was also awarded by The REI Foundation. BOLD/GOLD engages diverse youth participants in guided, challenging experiences to develop outdoor skills, self-confidence and leadership abilities. This funding will support efforts to attract and expose a diverse group of youth from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds to outdoor programming. Founded in 2006 as a pilot by five students at the Seattle Metrocenter YMCA, the program has grown to include seven YMCAs around the country and support more than 700 students annually who engage in nearly 50 different outdoor high-adventure trips.
“The Y is committed to nurturing the potential of every child and teen. Through programs like BOLD/GOLD, YMCAs provide many of the critical assets that kids need to become successful adults – a sense of belonging, supportive relationships and opportunities to enhance decision-making skills,” says John Duntley, senior camping specialist for YMCA of the USA. “We are grateful for The REI Foundation’s generosity and their commitment to collaborating with like-minded organizations to ensure that children learn, grow and thrive – both in nature and in life.”