The Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) annual awards were delivered last week during OAK’s annual advocacy week in D.C. Established in 2016, they are bestowed yearly on OAK members and decision-makers for significant contributions toward advancing opportunities for children, youth, and families to connect with nature.
This year, 12 people were celebrated for their leadership and work to get more youths and families in nature, whether it was through starting outdoors clubs in their schools, organizing field trips, or working to enact important legislation.
“The work we do as the Outdoors Alliance for Kids can’t be done alone,” said Jackie Ostfeld, co-founder and chair of OAK. “It’s only through the collaboration and support of hundreds of individuals and organizations as part of OAK and outside of it that we have been able to implement policies and programs that help to close the nature gap like the federal Every Kid Outdoors program and similar state-level programs, as well as legislation like the recently reintroduced Transit to Trails Act.”
The awards are broken up into four categories: Acorn, Leaf, Tree, and Canopy.
The Acorn Awards are given to youth who exemplify leadership in connecting youth people with the outdoors. This year’s awardees are:
- Nazma Begum, a Hamtramck High School student, who started the Hamtramck High School Adventure Club and was a teacher/leader in Hamtramck’s Recreation Department’s Summer Playground Program.
- Saanvi Mylavarapu, National Park Trust Youth Ambassador, for her work founding an environmental and ecology club at her school and runs ‘Nature Worthy,’ a nonprofit organization.
“I am honored to receive ‘OAK Acorn Award’ for the recognition of my efforts to bring awareness to get kids and teenagers to spend time outdoors and connect with nature, while also hosting drives and campaigns to make the community more eco-friendly,” said Mylavarapu. “The more time we spend with nature, we can reduce our carbon footprint. We don’t have to save the planet, but let’s not spoil it!”
The Leaf Awards are given to OAK members – individual or as an organization – who have gone above and beyond to support OAK goals. This year’s awardee is:
- Ambreen Tariq, founder of Brown People Camping, a social media platform promoting diversity, equity and access in the outdoors through storytelling.
The Tree Awards are given to decision-makers at the federal, state, or local level who have worked to create change in connecting kids with nature. This year’s awardees are:
- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for her Nature Awaits program
- Sen. Cory Booker, for his work on the Transit to Trails Act
“I am truly honored to be recognized by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids with the Tree Award,” said Sen. Booker. “We know how important it is to connect our youth with nature and the benefits it has for their mental well-being and physical development. I’m working hard in Congress, including with my Transit to Trails Act, to break down barriers and ensure that every child, regardless of their circumstances, can experience the beauty and benefits of the great outdoors. I share this recognition with all the dedicated individuals and organizations who are working tirelessly to close the nature gap. Let’s continue working to create a brighter future and a cleaner environment for our children.”
- Rep. Jimmy Gomez, for his work on the Transit to Trails Act
“Getting out in nature is essential for children’s mental health and physical wellbeing. I introduced the Transit to Trails Act to remove barriers between our cities and our parks, because every kid deserves to play outside, no matter where they live,” said Rep. Gomez. “I applaud OAK and the Sierra Club for their advocacy fighting for opportunities for kids to connect with nature and thank them for this recognition.”
- Sen. Alex Padilla, for his work on the Outdoors for All Act
“As a father to three boys, I know how important it is for our kids to play outside and fully benefit from all that nature has to offer,” said Sen. Padilla. “Everyone deserves access to the outdoors regardless of zip code, that’s why I will continue to champion efforts in the Senate to improve access to the outdoors, especially in most disadvantaged communities.”
- Sen. Susan Collins, for her work on the Outdoors for All Act
- New Mexico State Sen. Steven Neville, for his work on the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund
- New Mexico State Sen. Peter Wirth, for his work on the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund
- New Mexico State Rep. Nathan Small, for his work on the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund
The Canopy Awards recognize lifetime achievement for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in multi-sector collaboration to get kids outdoors. The very first Canopy awardee is:
- Bob Ratcliffe, for his work in the recreation community and collaborative work with OAK, first as a leader at the Bureau of Land Management, and more recently during more than a decade of service as Chief of Recreation at the National Park Service.