When the Kids Speak Up

by Jackie Ostfeld, OAK Founder & Chair, Director of Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All campaign

Photo Credit: National Park Trust

The Every Kid Outdoors Act is now the law of the land – no pun intended. An historic public lands package has swept through both chambers of Congress in atypical bipartisan fashion and landed on the president’s desk. The conservation bill includes protections for millions of acres of wild lands and hundreds of miles of rivers. It permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund which not only helps to acquire new public lands, but also to expand nearby nature access to local parks and recreation opportunities. The landmark legislation authorizes the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, creating career pathways in conservation for youth and young veterans. And it establishes a new national monument to civil rights leader and World War II veteran Medgar Evers.

This massive public lands package was years in the making. But the Every Kid Outdoors Act is a relative newcomer, born out of one of the greatest challenges facing our national parks. Audrey and Frank Peterman put it clearly in a recent piece for Audubon: our national parks have a diversity problem.

The Every Kid in a Park program was established in 2015 by President Barack Obama as part of his commitment to ensure that all kids would have an opportunity to visit and enjoy our shared public lands. The program was an invitation to fourth graders and their families, designed to welcome a new generation into national parks.

The program was wildly popular when it was announced. In just the first two years, more than two million fourth graders downloaded their Every Kid in a Park vouchers online. And it was popular across the partisan divide, with both red- and blue-leaning states like IndianaMarylandNew York, WyomingIdaho, and New Mexico adopting the program in their park systems. Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval even signed a state lawto open up state parks to fifth graders.

I was honored to join the administration and my colleagues in the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) to help launch the Every Kid in a Park program in Washington, D.C.New York City, and Hawaii. In Detroit, Garrett Dempsey joined partners to host events reaching over 4,000 kids with nature-based opportunities. In Los Angeles, Roberto Morales built partnerships with schools and nonprofits to expand opportunities for fourth graders to visit the San Gabriel Mountains. Youth-serving organizations, like the National Park Trust, Wilderness Inquiry, and many others, leveraged the program to expand outdoor opportunities for the kids they served. Companies like REI and The North Face chipped in, too. Over five million dollars was leveraged from the private sector to support transportation costs for children attending Title 1 schools.

Photo Credit: National Park Trust

I knew the 2016 election would have consequences. Never did I imagine that this nonpartisan program serving children would be targeted for elimination. But that is exactly what happened. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids began to hear that the new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was considering letting the program expire quietly. Members of OAK organized to lend their support. Through a postcard campaign and youth blog series, we collected personal stories from fourth graders about the impact of the program on their own lives.

Photo Credit: Isabel Argoti, Every Kid in a Park Fellow (Youth share their stories about the Every Kid in a Park program)

But we couldn’t take any chances, so in 2017, OAK worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce the Every Kid Outdoors Act, legislation that would protect Every Kid in a Park from being eliminated by the Trump administration. We hosted a congressional briefing, lifting up the voices of two young girls who had participated in the program. We hosted a Twitter party with the bill sponsors, including Representative Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts,
and partnered with Blue Sky Funders Forum to engage the funding community by co-hosting a webinar, which also featured the congresswoman. We organized sign-on letters, congressional testimony, lobby days, and grassroots action alerts.

Photo Credit: National Park Trust (Two young girls share their experience during a briefing on Capitol Hill)

Despite all the bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, Secretary Zinke made another play to let the Every Kid in a Park program expire. This time he publicly signaled his intent to end the program during testimony in front of a congressional committee, telling senators, “When you give discounted or free passes to elderly, fourth graders, veterans, disabled, and you do it by the carload, there’s not a whole lot of people who actually pay at our front door.”

OAK collected sign-on letters and grassroots action alerts from nearly 100 organizations and more than 50,000 people, urging Zinke to continue the program. But it was the voices of children that ultimately swayed him to do the right thing. In the spring of 2018, eight kids from military families delivered handwritten postcards from over 1,000 fourth-graders to Secretary Zinke during a meeting organized by the National Park Trust and Blue Star Families. Days later, Zinke announced he would extend the program for one more year.

Photo Credit: Tami Heiliman, U.S. Department of the Interior (Children deliver 1,000+ postcards to Interior Secretary Zinke on the value of the Every Kid in a Park program)

Thanks to the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, the youth we serve can spend their time exploring and enjoying the outdoors, rather than gearing up to fight to save the program for the third year in a row. Now we just need to make sure that every fourth grader in the U.S. has a chance to use their national park pass, and develop the lifelong connection to nature that all of us deserve to experience. You can download your pass here.

RELEASE: Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes House and Senate

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes House and Senate
Groups from the Y to the North Face Celebrate Bipartisan Public Lands Package

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Every Kid Outdoors Act (363-62) as part of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), a bipartisan public lands package. The legislation passed in the U.S. Senate (92-8) two weeks ago and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.

The Every Kid Outdoors Act formally authorizes for seven years the Every Kid in a Park program (now called Every Kid Outdoors), to encourage children to visit their national parks and public lands. Every Kid Outdoors provides fourth graders with a free entry park pass for themselves and their families to visit all of our federally managed public lands, waters, and shores. In its first two years, the program reached over 2 million fourth graders and leveraged nearly $5 million in private funding to support transportation costs for children from Title 1 schools across the U.S. Launched in 2015, the program was threatened with cancellation twice by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and even singled out by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for termination.

The public lands package also permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the largest source of federal funding for close to home parks, playgrounds, and critical projects that ensure our children have access to nature and opportunities to improve physical fitness. Also included in the package is authorization for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps, which strengthens career pathways for youth and young veterans in the stewardship of our public lands and waters.

In response to today’s vote, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statements:

“Today’s historic vote is a win for our kids and our planet. It fills me with great hope to see our elected leaders come together in this time of deep division and pass a bipartisan bill that gets our kids outdoors, creates career pathways for youth and veterans in conservation, and protects and establishes close to home nature access for millions. Thank you to the nearly 100 organizations and tens of thousands of people across the country, including more than 1,000 fourth graders, who voiced their support for the Every Kid in a Park program and ensured today’s victory. The Every Kid Outdoors Act invites every fourth grader in the U.S. to experience their parks and public lands. The members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids stand ready to ensure the program continues to grow and reach even more kids with park opportunities.” — Jackie Ostfeld, Director, Sierra Club’s Outdoors for All Campaign; Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“Getting people outdoors is the highest and best use of America’s public lands. Today’s vote will help get more people outdoors on America’s parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. We commend the U.S. House of Representatives for permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund and extending the Every Kid in Park and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps programs.” — Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy, the Wilderness Society; Vice Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“The passing of the National Resources Management Act is strong confirmation of the bi-partisan nature of public lands and a positive step for the future health of our communities. It helps protect wild places in all 50 states, and will enable more of the 7.6 million jobs across the outdoor recreation economy. Equally exciting is including the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which gives every fourth-grader free access to America’s public land and waters, helping enable a new generation of explorers.” Arne Arens, Global Brand President, The North Face

“Whether a family outing, a school trip or a day at camp, time spent outdoors helps kids develop a sense of belonging in nature and an appreciation of the importance of preserving our lands and water. Our national parks and public lands are unrivaled as spaces where kids can connect with nature and grow their love of the outdoors. We applaud the passage of The Every Kid Outdoors Act which will enable youth-serving organizations like the Y to create powerful community partnerships focused on ensuring all kids, regardless of their circumstances, can experience the wonder of these national treasures.” Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA

“Congress’ passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act will make Every Kid in a Park a permanent program once signed into law. In its almost three years of existence, this program had opened the door to the natural beauty of the nation’s parks for countless children, helping them to stay physically active and healthy. With final passage of this legislation, the admirable work of this wonderful public-private partnership can continue and provide opportunities for many more kids to savor the great outdoors through our national parks and public lands.” Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association

“On behalf of kids and families across the nation, we celebrate the House and Senate passage of the Natural Resources Management Act which will not only benefit millions of 4th graders and their families through the Every Kid Outdoors Act, but also thousands of parks, public lands and waters through the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. By preserving our parks and providing access to these special places for our children, we will ensure that America’s heritage will be treasured forever.” — Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“NRPA is delighted Congress passed the Natural Resources Management Act, also known as the ‘Lands Package.’ Among many other important elements, this bipartisan piece of legislation includes the ‘Every Kid Outdoors Act,’ a program we proudly support, as it provides children with the opportunity to explore our nation’s parks and open spaces, an experience every child should have.” — Barbara Tulipane, CAE, President and CEO, National Recreation and Park Association

“The Alliance for Childhood is thrilled about the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act and greatly appreciates the commitment of Congress to getting kids outdoors for their healthy development. This legislation will help ensure equitable opportunities for fourth graders to experience active, child-directed play in our natural world. Anchoring the Every Kid in a Park program with Congressional authorization will support life changing opportunities for the children who need it most.” — Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood

“GirlTrek proudly supports the Every Kid Outdoors Act. We know how important it is  for everyone, especially young people, to have access to our nation’s parks and outdoor spaces. Exploring these beautiful lands opens up a world of possibilities for some of the most marginalized. We belong in every space enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer. It’s not a privilege; it’s our place to be out in nature taking in its splendor. Every Kid Outdoors Act helps to make this possible.” — Vanessa Garrison, Cofounder, GirlTrek

“The American Camp Association applauds the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act which will make permanent the Every Kid in a Park program. This valuable program has granted millions of children access to our nation’s vast and beautiful national parks.  Hundreds of America’s summer camps also utilize parks annually. The passage the Every Kid Outdoors Act will ensure that every 4th grader in the U.S. has a chance to visit, explore and grow their appreciation of national parks.  We thank Congress for their important, bipartisan work to advance this legislation.” Tom Rosenberg, President/CEO, American Camp Association

“With today’s passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, we move another step closer to ensuring that all kids and families have the opportunity to learn about, enjoy and play together in the natural world. For the next generation to appreciate, preserve and protect our parks – and consider careers in the green-collar industry — they need frequent, affordable opportunities to discover the joys of nature. We are encouraged by the bipartisan support for the EKO Act and look forward to continuing opportunities to connect young people with a world that fosters their creativity, provides physical and mental health benefits, and helps them understand the world that provides life, food and wonder.” —  Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director, Seed Your Future

“American Hiking Society applauds the bipartisan final passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Providing free public lands access to fourth graders across the country will introduce the next generation to outdoor recreation and foster lifelong service to and enjoyment of our most treasured natural resource.” Kathryn Van Waes, Executive Director, American Hiking Society

The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood lauds the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Time outside and in nature is critical to children’s healthy development. And in today’s screen-saturated world, it is more vital than ever to ensure that all children have an opportunity to experience our nation’s incredible natural resources.” — Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

“Every child, regardless of their zip code or the amount of money in their bank account, deserves to have regular, easy access to the outdoors, to play, learn, explore and grow. The Every Kid Outdoors Act opens the doors for all 4th graders to explore our public lands and waters, experiencing the rich cultural and biological diversity of our beautiful country. The California Outdoor Engagement Coalition applauds the bipartisan support of the Every Kid Outdoors Act.” Jenny Mulholland-Beahrs, Director, California Outdoor Engagement Coalition

“Avid4 Adventure proudly celebrates the passing of the Natural Resources Management Act.  We applaud the bipartisan support for this bill, which clearly demonstrates that people from all states and a diversity of backgrounds agree that protecting our wild places and empowering kids to lead active and healthy lifestyles in the outdoors are vitally important for our continued success as a nation.” — Paul Dreyer, CEO, Avid4 Adventure

“Now more than ever, it is reassuring to see bipartisan support to give future generations the same opportunities we enjoyed to experience the great outdoors. The Natural Resources Act is a critical step in creating appreciation for, and the emotional connection to the great outdoors.” Bruce Ward, President, Choose Outdoors; Advisor, Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Council

“On behalf of our national network of environmental and outdoor educators, we join our partners and colleagues in celebrating the bipartisan passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. By providing access to public lands for every fourth grader and their family, this bill offers an unprecedented opportunity for young people to have meaningful learning experiences that can foster deep connections to our natural resources.”  — Judy Braus, Executive Director, North American Association for Environmental Education

“Our nation’s wildlife heritage will only endure if we ensure future generations can get outside and experience the wonder of wildlife firsthand. The bipartisan Natural Resources Management Act is a common-sense proposal to achieve this vital goal. We’re proud common sense prevailed on this critical piece of legislation and that Every Kid Outdoors is included.” — Josh Falk, National Wildlife Federation

“The American Horticultural Society (AHS) applauds the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which will help bring the proven benefits of being in nature and the outdoors to millions more children and youth. This act will serve as an important accelerator for the AHS’s work with garden- and nature-based educators to nurture the next generation of plant lovers and earth stewards through regular encounters with the natural world and, ultimately, to create a happier, healthier, and more sustainable future for our citizenry. We are grateful to Congress for the bipartisan approach that led to this act’s passage.” — Beth Tuttle, President & CEO, American Horticultural Society

“Great job to OAK for taking the lead and getting this legislation passed. We need to keep going in connecting ALL our kids to nature, forever! Frequent and unstructured nature play (not lead by adults and guided by their own imaginations and discoveries) with visits to all our truly wild places, will grow their minds long-term, as well as their bodies. Parents and teachers need to let our kids lead to show us what they “see” in nature and teach us to new ways to protect it, from their new, and completely unbiased, perspective. We can learn so much from them as well.” David Molzan, Director, Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Inc.

Victory-EveryKid-01c_OAK

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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, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes the U.S. Senate

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Every Kid Outdoors Act Passes the U.S. Senate
Bill Ensures that Program to Allow Fourth Graders to Visit National Parks Will Continue

Washington, D.C.– Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the Every Kid Outdoors Act as part of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47). The bill now moves on to the House of Representative for House consideration.

The Every Kid Outdoors Act provides seven year authorization for the Every Kid in a Park program, an Obama-era initiative that has provided passes to visit our national parks to over 2 million fourth graders since its inception. The program was threatened with cancellation several times by the Department of the Interior, and even singled out by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for termination.

“Thank you to the dozens of organizations who acted to protect this vital program, and to the tens of thousands of people across the country who voiced their support, including over one thousand kids who signed postcards about the value of the program. I’m grateful to see our elected leaders come together in this time of division and create a bipartisan bill to make sure every fourth grader in the U.S. has the chance to visit one of their national parks and become a lifelong advocate for conservation.” –  Jackie Ostfeld, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids

“The Every Kid Outdoors Act is great, low cost way to connect children and their families to America’s parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. The Outdoors Alliance for Kids thanks Representatives DeGette, Tipton, Quigley, Stefanik, Lynch and Graves for their leadership in making this popular program permanent.” — Paul Sanford, Vice Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.

“The Alliance for Childhood is thrilled about the reintroduction of the Every Kid Outdoors Act and appreciates the commitment of Congresswoman DeGette and all of the co-sponsors supporting this legislation. This bill will help ensure equitable opportunities for fourth graders to experience active, child-directed play in our natural world. Anchoring the Every Kid in a Park program with legislation will support life changing developmental opportunities for the children who need it most.” – Linda Rhoads, Executive Director of Alliance for Childhood

“Seed Your Future wholeheartedly supports the Every Kid Outdoors Act, and all programs that encourage kids and families to learn about, enjoy and play together in the natural world. For the next generation to appreciate, preserve and protect our parks – and consider careers in the industry — they need frequent, affordable opportunities to discover the joys of nature. We encourage the swift passage of the EKO Act and continuing the opportunities to connect young people with a world that fosters their creativity, provides physical and mental health benefits, and helps them understand the world that provides life, food and wonder.” – Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director, Seed Your Future.

“At NRPA, we believe everyone deserves a great park. That’s why we’re proud to support the ‘Every Kid Outdoors Act,’ which increases access to parks and open space for children nationwide. Thank you to Congress for introducing this important piece of legislation. Increased access to parks provides communities everywhere with greater health and wellness opportunities, and a better understanding of the value of conservation.” – Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association, President and CEO.

“On behalf of 4th graders and their families across the country, we support the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act. Through our national Buddy Bison Program and our work with hundreds of teachers across the country, we have seen first hand how powerful this program is in providing an “access trail” for children, especially those who live in under-resourced communities. These children are our future outdoor enthusiasts and advocates of these important landscapes and historic and cultural sites.” Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“As the largest residential education partner of the National Park Service, NatureBridge’s mission is to connect young people to the wonder and science of the outdoors. The Every Kid Outdoors Act is an extension of that mission, and we support any opportunity to connect even more kids to the natural world.”  Autumn Saxton-Ross, PhD, Director, Mid Atlantic, NatureBridge

“Wilderness Inquiry applauds the reintroduction of the Every Kids Outdoors Act.  We know the power of bringing people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities into our National Parks, and through this legislation thousands of young people will get the opportunity experience these special places firsthand.” Greg Lais, Executive Director Wilderness Inquiry.

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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 nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: Outdoors Alliance for Kids Calls for End to Shutdown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9th, 2019

Contact:  April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Calls for End to Shutdown
Youth Advocacy Groups Highlight Impacts of Parks Closures

Washington, D.C.– Today, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK), a non-partisan alliance of more than 100 groups, called for the government shutdown to end. Member groups of OAK are raising concerns that the Department of the Interior’s ‘soft closure’ of national parks has created significant health and public safety issues that impact kids and families in particular. The soft closure of our national parks is decreasing access to safe and affordable places for children and families to get outside and active. The shutdown is also resulting in significant damage to natural, cultural and historic resources on our public lands.

“All over the country youth groups that lead trips into our national parks are having to cancel and disappoint the kids they serve. It’s not safe for kids and families to be out there exploring our parks without the support and protection provided by the National Park Service, and it’s not safe for our parks to have people driving off-road, damaging sacred natural features and leaving behind their trash. It’s time to end this shutdown and get our parks back in operation.” — Jackie Ostfeld, founder and chair of OAK and director of Sierra Club Outdoors

“Our national parks and public lands promote a healthy lifestyle by enabling people of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and increase their physical activity. The current government shutdown limits access to this invaluable resource for wellness and health in our nation. For this reason, we join the nation’s governors and other organizations in calling for an end to this shutdown.” — Mark Schoeberl, executive vice president of advocacy at the American Heart Association

“Alliance for Childhood is eager for all of our public spaces to be open and staffed by the hardworking park and forest rangers, outdoor educators, and wilderness experience leaders who serve our youth, children and families so enthusiastically. Across the nation, our public lands offer unique and life-changing experiences for those who visit these treasured places. We encourage our federal government leadership to restore the many opportunities for getting kids outdoors by reopening the agencies that serve our future leaders and protect our public lands.” — Linda Rhoads, executive director of Alliance for Childhood

“The government shutdown has been a disaster for America’s parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The shutdown is making the already massive maintenance backlog worse, damaging valuable historic and cultural resources, and ruining travel plans for many Americans. The Wilderness Society calls on government leaders to provide the necessary funding to reopen the government and allow our federal land management agencies to restore these treasured landscapes. Let’s make sure that all Americans have an opportunity to visit these places and have a safe and positive experience.” — Paul Sanford, National Director of Recreation Policy at the Wilderness Society

“This ill-conceived shutdown is causing critical damage to our parks and harm to surrounding communities. NRPA urges Congress and the administration to fully fund and reopen our national parks and federal public lands. The neglect and mismanagement of our national parks resulting from this shutdown is unacceptable.” — Barbara Tulipane, CAE, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)

“With the prolonged government shutdown almost in its third week, our National Parks and other public lands are suffering. While we are heartened by concerned citizens volunteering to remove trash and help prevent vandalism, the burden cannot be left with them to prevent irreversible damage. Plus, the continuation of the shutdown puts at risk the very partnerships between nonprofits and the government that help maintain our trails, like American Hiking’s Volunteer Vacations. It’s time for Congress and the White House to reopen the government and resume their responsibility to oversee and fund the protection and maintenance of our National Parks and public lands.” — Kathryn Van Waes, Executive Director, American Hiking Society

“Every year Winter Wildlands Alliance’s 65-site National SnowSchool program introduces thousands of students to winter ecology and the joy of exploring public lands on snowshoes. If the National Park and US Forest Service shutdown continues, many SnowSchool field trips will unfortunately be cancelled. With a finite number of winter days and a limited ability to reschedule, this likely means many kids will completely miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime SnowSchool experience.”  — Kerry McClay, National SnowSchool Director, Winter Wildlands Alliance

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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 over 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

RELEASE: Outdoors Alliance for Kids 2018 Award Winners Announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 13, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850,  contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Outdoors Alliance for Kids 2018 Award Winners Announced

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced the recipients of the 2018 “OAK Awards.” Awards were offered to a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers including Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Representatives Mike Turner (R-OH) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). Several OAK member organizations and individuals received awards during the annual meeting of the Alliance, including Blue Star Families, youth activists Robbie Bond and Joseph Goldstein, and the Detroit Outdoors project.

The “OAK Awards” are bestowed annually on bipartisan decision-makers and OAK members for significant contributions in advancing opportunities for children, youth, and families to learn, get active, and serve in the outdoors.

“Every single one of these individuals is being recognized because of the huge difference they are making to ensure that every kid in every community has access to the outdoors,” said Jackie Ostfeld, Director of Sierra Club Outdoors and co-founder of OAK. “In the past year we have thwarted attempts to hike fees in our national parks; we have protected and extended a program that offers every fourth-grader the chance to visit those parks; and we have continued to make progress toward a world that recognizes the value of universal access to nature for our kids. Thank you to our award winners for all their hard work to make that world a reality.”

OAK Tree Award Recipients (Decision-Makers):

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN):  Sen. Alexander was the Republican lead on the Every Kid Outdoors Act, and co-sponsored the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act and the Kids to a Parks Day resolution. Sen. Alexander has also been a consistent champion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI): Sen. Hirono has been a consistent and vocal advocate for connecting youth to the outdoors by co-sponsoring the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act and showing leadership during hearings related to National Park Service youth programs, and has been a key ally in pushing back on Park Service fee hikes.

Representative Mike Turner (R-OH): Representative Turner was was the lead Republican and original co-sponsor of H.R. 2943, the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grant Program Act. He has been an early and consistent supporter of Land and Water Conservation Fund and a co-sponsor of H.R. 502, which would permanently authorize the Fund. Representative Turner also co-sponsored H.R. 2584 to establish the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund.

Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ): Representative Grijalva is a champion of public lands, diversity in the outdoors, and environmental stewardship. He is the lead sponsor on H.R. 502 to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and was a co-sponsor of both the Every Kid Outdoors Act and the bill to establish the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

OAK Leaf Award Recipients (OAK Members):

Blue Star Families: Blue Star Families played an instrumental role in 2018 to help to raise the visibility of the Every Kid in a Park program with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. In partnership with the National Park Trust, Blue Star Families helped get more military kids outdoors and during a meeting with Zinke, shared over one thousand postcards from kids across the U.S. to demonstrate the widespread support for the Every Kid in a Park program.

Detroit Outdoors: The Detroit Outdoors project is making the dream of camping within the city limits of Detroit a reality for local youth. Under the leadership of Garrett Dempsey, a new coalition has emerged, including the City of Detroit, Detroit Parks and Recreation, Sierra Club, YMCA, REI, the Outdoors Empowered Network, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Kresge Foundation. Through this collaboration a long defunct group camping area, Scout Hollow, has been reopened, bringing life to the Rouge City Park and creating the first ever environmental education position in the City of Detroit.

OAK Acorn Award, a new category recognizing exemplary youth leadership in the field to connect young people with our parks and public lands

Robbie Bond: Robbie received an Every Kid in a Park pass when he was 9 years old and has been on a mission to visit and protect parks and monuments across the U.S. ever since. As the founder of Kids Speak for Parks, Robbie has been a vocal advocate for the Every Kid in a Park program, sharing his experiences and the importance of parks to kids like him on social media channels followed by thousands.

Joseph Goldstein: Joseph is at the forefront of youth-led conservation advocacy. A consummate advocate, speaker, and organizer, he is a champion for preserving the Boundary Waters. When he had leukemia, after careful consideration, his Make A Wish ask was to save the Boundary Water. When Make a Wish was unable to help, Joseph turned his wish into a mission, travelling to Washington, D.C., repeatedly throughout three and half years of chemotherapy to advocate on behalf of America’s largest and most visited water wilderness. After completing treatment this February, he founded a nonprofit called Kids for the Boundary Waters to inspire a generation of young wilderness advocates who are educated about and involved in the fight to defend the pristine waters, forest and wildlife of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness against sulfide-ore copper mines proposed within its watershed.

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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 100 businesses and organizations to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the outdoors.

 

RELEASE: Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Get Children Outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.org


Senate Committee Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Get Children Outdoors

Washington, DC — Today, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle came together to pass the Every Kid Outdoors Act, to help get our kids outdoors. The bill, introduced by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), would encourage fourth graders and their families to visit America’s natural, cultural, and historical treasures. The bill authorizes the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to administer a pass program to provide free entry for fourth graders and their families to visit our national public lands, waters, and shores. The companion bill passed the House of Representatives and  is sponsored by Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Diana DeGette (D-CO).

In response to the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statements:

“The Every Kid Outdoors Act is a powerful way to make it easier for youth to explore our parks and public lands. Exposure to outdoor experiences helps encourage a lifelong sense of adventure and respect for the environment, something we value deeply at The North Face. Together with the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we’re thrilled to see the legislation pass through the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, helping create opportunity for young people and their families to experience our parks and public lands.” – Arne Arens, President, The North Face

“Alliance for Childhood is enthusiastic about the opportunities the bipartisan Every Kid Outdoors Act will provide for fourth graders and their families. Together with our partners at Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we look forward to working with federal agencies to ensure all children’s healthy development, especially through outdoor, child-directed play in our natural world.” – Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood

“National Park Trust thanks the members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for their bipartisan support of the Every Kid Outdoors Act which will encourage all 4th grade children and their families to explore and discover our parks, public lands and waters. Only when our children experience the beauty of the great outdoors will they understand the importance of preserving and protecting these treasured places.”  – Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“We applaud Congress for approving the Every Kid Outdoors Act which allows fourth graders and their families to visit our parks, monuments and other public lands at no charge.  This program is part of a vital national effort to break down barriers and connect more young Americans with wild places. Our public lands belong to all of us, and this Act helps kids to visit and discover America’s unique outdoor wonders.”  – Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society

“American Hiking Society applauds the bipartisan passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Providing free public lands access to fourth graders across the country will introduce the next generation to outdoor recreation and foster lifelong service to and enjoyment of our most treasured natural resource.” – Kathryn Van Waes, Executive Director, American Hiking Society  

“Every child deserves the opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors through our nation’s parks and open spaces. Thank you to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for putting us one step closer to making this a reality through the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which we proudly support.” – Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO

“Whether a family outing, a school trip or a day at camp, time spent outdoors helps kids develop a sense of belonging in nature and an appreciation of the importance of preserving our lands and water. Our national parks and public lands are unrivaled as spaces where kids can connect with nature and grow their love of the outdoors. We applaud the passage of The Every Kid Outdoors Act which will enable youth-serving organizations like the Y to create powerful community partnerships focused on ensuring all kids, regardless of their circumstances, can experience the wonder of these national treasures.” – Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA

“We are so pleased that the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources has approved the Every Kid Outdoors Act which will make Every Kid in a Park a permanent program. In its almost three years of existence, this program had opened the door to the natural beauty of the nation’s parks for countless children, helping them to stay physically active and healthy. With the passage of this legislation, the admirable work of this wonderful public-private partnership can continue and provide opportunities for many more kids to savor the great outdoors through our national parks and public lands.” – Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association

“The Trust for Public Land, which creates parks and protects land for people, is grateful for Congress’ support of this vital program, which provides children the opportunity to experience our national treasures, often for the first time. Efforts like the Every Kid Outdoors Act to connect children with nature are critical to ensuring that the next generation will have access to parks and green spaces within a 10-minute walk of home.” – Kathy DeCoster, Vice President and Director of Federal Affairs, The Trust for Public Land

“We enthusiastically support the Every Kid Outdoors Act and believe that connecting children to nature is critically important to their health and well-being, and to the future of our shared outdoor heritage. We commend the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for putting us one step closer to ensuring that all children have the ability to benefit from nature in our National Parks and in their everyday lives. – Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children & Nature Network

“Every kid should have access to the physical, emotional and social health benefits of getting outdoors – but today’s kids spend more time indoors than any generation in history. With the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, we can begin to overcome some of the structural barriers that keep kids from low-income families and communities of color from having access to outdoor play.  We applaud Congress for its bipartisan leadership on this issue.” – Jackie Ostfeld, Outdoors Director, Sierra Club and Founder and Chair, Outdoors Alliance for Kids

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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 nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

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Release: House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Get Children Outdoors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.org

House Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Get Children Outdoors

Washington, DC — Today, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle came together to pass the Every Kid Outdoors Act, to help get our kids outdoors. The bill, introduced by Representatives Niki Tsongas (D-MA-03), Scott Tipton (R-CO-03), and Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), would encourage fourth graders and their families to visit America’s natural, cultural, and historical treasures. The bill authorizes the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to administer a pass program to provide free entry for fourth graders and their families to visit our national public lands, waters, and shores. The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

In response to the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids issued the following statements:

“The Every Kid Outdoors Act is a powerful way to make it easier for youth to explore our parks and public lands. Exposure to outdoor experiences helps encourage a lifelong sense of adventure and respect for the environment, something we value deeply at The North Face. Together with the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we’re thrilled to see the legislation pass, helping create opportunity for young people and their families to experience our parks and public lands.” – Arne Arens, President, The North Face

“Alliance for Childhood is enthusiastic about the opportunities the bipartisan Every Kid Outdoors Act will provide for fourth graders and their families. Together with our partners at Outdoors Alliance for Kids, we look forward to working with federal agencies to ensure all children’s healthy development, especially through outdoor, child-directed play in our natural world.” – Linda Rhoads, Executive Director, Alliance for Childhood

“National Park Trust thanks the members of the House of Representatives for their bipartisan support of the Every Kid Outdoors Act which will encourage all 4th grade children and their families to explore and discover our parks, public lands and waters. Only when our children experience the beauty of the great outdoors will they understand the importance of preserving and protecting these treasured places.”   Grace Lee, Executive Director, National Park Trust

“We applaud Congress for approving the Every Kid Outdoors Act which allows fourth graders and their families to visit our parks, monuments and other public lands at no charge.  This program is part of a vital national effort to break down barriers and connect more young Americans with wild places. Our public lands belong to all of us, and this Act helps kids to visit and discover America’s unique outdoor wonders.”  – Jamie Williams, President, The Wilderness Society

“American Hiking Society applauds the bipartisan passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act by the House of Representatives. Providing free public lands access to fourth graders across the country will introduce the next generation to outdoor recreation and foster lifelong service to and enjoyment of our most treasured natural resource.” – Kathryn Van Waes, Executive Director, American Hiking Society

“Every child deserves the opportunity to experience nature and the outdoors through our nation’s parks and open spaces. Thank you to the U.S. House of Representatives for putting us one step closer to making this a reality through the passage of the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which we proudly support.” – Barbara Tulipane, CAE, National Recreation and Park Association president and CEO

“Whether a family outing, a school trip or a day at camp, time spent outdoors helps kids develop a sense of belonging in nature and an appreciation of the importance of preserving our lands and water. Our national parks and public lands are unrivaled as spaces where kids can connect with nature and grow their love of the outdoors. We applaud the passage of The Every Kid Outdoors Act which will enable youth-serving organizations like the Y to create powerful community partnerships focused on ensuring all kids, regardless of their circumstances, can experience the wonder of these national treasures.” – Kevin Washington, President and CEO, YMCA of the USA

“We are so pleased that the House of Representatives has approved the Every Kid Outdoors Act which will make Every Kid in a Park a permanent program. In its almost three years of existence, this program had opened the door to the natural beauty of the nation’s parks for countless children, helping them to stay physically active and healthy. With the passage of this legislation, the admirable work of this wonderful public-private partnership can continue and provide opportunities for many more kids to savor the great outdoors through our national parks and public lands.” – Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association

“The Trust for Public Land, which creates parks and protects land for people, is grateful for Congress’ support of this vital program, which provides children the opportunity to experience our national treasures, often for the first time. Efforts like the Every Kid Outdoors Act to connect children with nature are critical to ensuring that the next generation will have access to parks and green spaces within a 10-minute walk of home.” – Kathy DeCoster, Vice President and Director of Federal Affairs, The Trust for Public Land

“Every kid should have access to the physical, emotional and social health benefits of getting outdoors – but today’s kids spend more time indoors than any generation in history. With the passage of the Every Kid in a Park Act, we can begin to overcome some of the structural barriers that keep kids from low-income families and communities of color from having access to outdoor play.  We applaud Congress for its bipartisan leadership on this issue and encourage the U.S. Senate to join their colleagues in the House to ensure this program for generations to come.” – Jackie Ostfeld, Outdoors Director for Sierra Club and Founder and Chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids.

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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 nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth, and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

 

OUTDOORS ALLIANCE FOR KIDS LAUNCHES AFFILIATE PARTNERSHIP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 30, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, contact@outdoorsallianceforkids.org

Washington, D.C., — The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) announced today that it will be launching an affiliate partnership with OAK members California Outdoor Engagement Coalition and the Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative.

The OAK affiliate partnership will help to connect state and local coalitions with OAK’s national initiatives and policy solutions, expanding a network of state, local and national organizations working to promote access to the outdoors for kids and families.

The new affiliate structure will enable OAK to help support solutions led by and for coalitions and impacted communities on the ground. OAK affiliates will also serve as an on-the-ground resource and model framework for fellow OAK members engaged in state and local efforts, providing relevant resources, best practices, and lessons learned.

“The Outdoors Alliance for Kids’ work to increase equitable access and connect youth with the outdoors is growing,” said Brenna Muller, OAK Program Manager. “With local affiliates, our national network of organizations will be even more powerful and able to act not just on federal policy priorities, but also local and state initiatives.”

“The California Outdoor Engagement Coalition is honored to be a state affiliate of OAK. OAK is national model of leveraging partnerships to expand equitable access to the outdoors and the Coalition can learn a great deal from their approach to advocating for policies that impact millions of children and families every year,” said Jenny Mulholland-Beahrs, Director, California Outdoor Engagement Coalition.

“Members of the Seattle Every Kid in a Park Collaborative are working together to foster the next generation of environmental stewards,” said Casey Andrews, Coordinator. “We are demonstrating success at decreasing barriers and increasing access to public lands for youth of all ages. OAK’s focus on the Every Kid in a Park program, along with their work to sustainably engage youth in upper grade levels, aligns well with our work. We are grateful for the opportunity to join OAK as an affiliate and look forward to this broader collaboration!”

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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 nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

DETROIT KIDS NEED THE OUTDOORS

guest post by Mark Naida – originally appeared in The Detroit News. This story features Detroit Outdoors, a collaborative effort supported by Detroit Parks and Rec, The Kresge Foundation, and OAK members Sierra Club, YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, and REI.

Living in an urban environment, Detroiters often don’t get the same opportunities to enjoy the outdoors as other Michiganians.

Photo- Jac Kyle - Courtesy
(Photo: Jac Kyle / Courtesy)

So they miss out on learning the value of conservation and on understanding the possibilities of careers in fields which preserve and maintain natural spaces. Public land is part of our natural heritage, and should be accessible by every American, even those who live in the big city.

Welcome to Scout Hollow, Detroit’s only campground.

Red-Tailed Hawks soar overhead and Monarch butterflies float on the wind. The Rouge River meanders through 17.4 acres of pristine green space incongruously outlined by I-96 and the Southfield Freeway. Untamed woods cover 12 acres and the the other 5 are maintained for camp sites.

Established in 1939 for Boy Scouts, the last troop broke camp 10 years ago and nature overtook the site.

When Garrett Dempsey, program manager of Detroit Outdoors, first saw the campground, the only thing distinguishing it from wilderness was a set of steps covered by a fallen tree and flagpole that rose from the tall grass.

“Nature had a lease,” says Dempsey. “No one had mown in 10 years.”

Dempsey and Jac Kyle, outdoor education coordinator for the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, put their energies toward the rehabilitation of the campground.

Private donations — a $200,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, $20,000 from the Sierra Club, and $10,000 from REI, an outdoor outfitter — paid for the renovation.

Scout Hollow offers everything a group could want for a campout, including a gear library that lends tents, cook kits, and rain protection..

“In an urban area, you can easily forget about nature,” Dempsey says. “It is important to foster a connection with it. With this place, we have been able to take down barriers to camping.”

The closest other campground to Detroit is the Highland recreation area in White Lake.

Camping can bring peace to an otherwise bustling urban environment.

“If you think of the use of technology in kids lives today,” Kyle says, “it is hard to go 24 hours without a phone. This is a space where you can interact and not just be on the phone or watching television. We hang out by a fire and cook dinner together.”

Scout Hollow offers the very experiences in nature that the Outdoor Adventure Center, a museum to nature on the Detroit Riverwalk, tries to recreate.

We felt there was a need for more presence to creatively engage the urban community with the outdoors,” says Ron Olson, chief of Parks and Recreation for the Michigan DNR, which runs the outdoor center. “We hatched the idea of an experiential center where people could come and learn about the rest of the state and the outdoors.”

But then what? Once kids are excited about nature, they need an outlet to cultivate that passion. And that’s what Scout Hollow aims to do.

Now attention is turning to Belle Isle, Detroit’s largest outdoor park.

Olson says that after hosting a few camping events on Belle isle, the DNR has begun to consider building a permanent campground on the island. But the project is well down a priority list that is first addressing neglected areas of the island.

“We still have a lot to do to bring the park back up to snuff,” Olson says.

The DNR should keep its focus on providing hands-on outdoor opportunities for Detroiters, particularly children.

It can be done without breaking the budget. Scout Hollow was rehabilitated on a tight budget and with limited resources.

And it’s allowed Detroiters to camp under the stars without leaving the city.

mnaida@detroitnews.com

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Welcomes 100th Member Organization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 20, 2018

Contact: April Thomas, 206.321.3850, april.thomas@sierraclub.org

Outdoors Alliance for Kids Welcomes 100th Member Organization

Washington, D.C., — The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) reached its 100-member milestone with the addition of GreenLatinos, a national coalition of Latino Environmental & Conservation Leaders, who joined the alliance in August, 2018.

OAK is also proud to welcome Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Pride Outside as new members of the alliance.

“The movement to ensure that all kids have access to the health benefits of getting outdoors is growing,” said Brenna Muller, Program Manager for the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “Together we will work toward a world where playing outdoors is part of every childhood.”

“We believe Latino communities have the right to live in environmentally healthy, just, and vibrant communities, this includes ensuring our children and families have access and the ability to enjoy the outdoors, whether it be their local community park or one of our national natural treasures such as the Grand Canyon,” said Mark Magana, President & CEO of GreenLatinos. “Joining the Outdoor Alliance for Kids will help us move closer to making this a reality.”

“We believe that when children have time outdoor observing and engaging with the natural world, it enhances their executive function, creativity, attention, social-emotional and physical well-being,” said Jean Rogers, Screen Time Program Manager at Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. “With mobile technology luring kids indoors, OAK’s work to protect and defend environments and programs for kids is essential. We look forward to collaborating on strategies to support families and children get more fresh air and immersion in the great outdoors!”

“We are committed to building LGBTQ community around the outdoors and boosting LGBTQ representation and inclusion outside,” said Hannah Malvin, founder of Pride Outside. “We support relevant, inclusive programming and policies that make LGBTQ youth feel welcome on public lands and in city parks.”

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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 nearly 100 businesses and organizations, representing more than 60 million individuals to address the growing divide between children, youth and the natural world. For more information: www.outdoorsallianceforkids.org

connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors