Wednesday, August 3, 2022
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IRVINE, CA – Yesterday, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) recognized Rep. Katie Porter of California’s 45th district for her leadership in connecting kids to the outdoors. OAK is a partnership of over a hundred organizations, including the Sierra Club and REI, with a goal of facilitating those connections.
“Our country is blessed with beautiful public lands and national parks, especially right here in California,” said Rep. Katie Porter. “These treasures belong to every American, and every American should have the opportunity to enjoy them. I’m a proud champion of the Every Kid Outdoors program because it teaches young people about the importance of our natural resources, makes it easier for families to take affordable vacations, and boosts local economies.”
The OAK Tree Award is an annual award presented by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids to decision-makers leading the way in ensuring outdoor equity for kids and families. Rep. Porter has been a champion for the Every Kid Outdoors program, which ensures free access to national parks and public lands for 4th graders and their families. Porter’s efforts have led to a $25 million investment in the program in the House Interior Appropriations bill.
“I have been very fortunate to advocate and promote the Every Kid in a Park and Every Kid Outdoors programs,” said OAK Youth Leader and Advisor Tigran Nahabedian. “Time in the outdoors teaches important lessons and skills and is vital to childhood development. It is a well-known fact that spending time outdoors has positive mental and physical health benefits. For young people, nature can be especially powerful. Physical activity and exposure to the outdoors improves performance in school, engages children, builds healthier bodies and boosts confidence leading to greater opportunities and success later in life. We are fortunate to have organizations committed to our youth and champions like Representative Katie Porter.”
The award ceremony was held at Rep. Porter’s office in Irvine where Nahabedian presented the award to Rep. Porter. Also in attendance were children from the Art and Wilderness Institute and their parents as well as members of OAK.
“It is our human right to access wilderness areas,” said Art and Wilderness Institute Director Sama Wareh. “With mental health cases on the rise, our best preventative medicine is going to be spending more time outdoors and less time inside. To do that, we need easy access to open space. Besides, the historical mark of an intelligent and compassionate society is by how much open space we value. In addition, climate change is a reality, a shameful one, we have left for this next generation to deal with. The least we can do is preserve and restore habitat. It’s our duty as inheritors of this earth.”
The Every Kid Outdoors program has been one of the focuses of OAK, alongside other programs geared toward improving the health and wellness of both children and the planet through access to nature.
“Young people and children need early and consistent exposure to nature to support their healthy physical and mental development,” said OAK co-founder and chair and Sierra Club Outdoors for All campaign director Jackie Ostfeld. “The Every Kid Outdoors program is a vital part of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids’ efforts to ensure that children are getting that exposure. Increasing investments in the program, like Rep. Porter seeks to do, will ensure Every Kid Outdoors reaches kids with the greatest barriers to access.”
The attending children had the opportunity at the event to share about why access to the outdoors is important for children like them.
“Time outside and our connection to nature is fundamental to the social, cultural and physical health and well-being of all people,” said REI Tustin Store Manager Eric Piper. “But millions of Americans lack access to nature and thriving outdoor spaces. Scores of others do not feel safe or a sense of belonging outdoors–stemming from ongoing systems of inequity, injustice and racism. The REI Co-operative is here to create the largest positive climate community and enable equitable access to the outdoors.”
Additional photos from event are available at request.
About the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK)
OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth, and families with the outdoors. The members of OAK are brought together by the belief that the wellness of current and future generations, the health of our planet and communities and the economy of the future depend on humans having a personal, direct, and life-long relationship with nature and the outdoors. OAK brings together more than 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors. www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org
About Rep. Katie Porter
Congresswoman Porter has been a consistent advocate for environmental protection throughout her time in Congress. She’s introduced legislation to raise fees on polluters extracting from public lands, spearheaded bipartisan efforts to improve disaster response and resiliency, and repeatedly urged her colleagues to take bold, urgent action to fight the climate crisis. In 2021, she chaired a Congressional hearing and listening session in Orange County on a major oil leak off the coast of Huntington Beach.